Category Archives: Encouragement

Endurance and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Great Antarctic Adventure

I just finished reading an excellent book about the greatest Antarctic adventure ever undertaken. Alfred Lansing wrote the book Endurance based on the compilation of diary entries of men who were actually aboard the boat aptly named The Endurance. It is an excellent read! The purpose of this blog is to write about “the human condition and everything pertaining to it.” Endurance pertains to the human condition.

Continue reading Endurance and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Great Antarctic Adventure

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(Karla’s) Real Time Reflections from Five Years Ago (#9)

Mike and Karla

February 26, 2014 (2009)

This is the ninth in a series of blog postings we are doing in real time plus five years post brain surgery. (click on the colored link to see a summary post Five Year Anniversary ).  Portions of these recollections will be included in the book I am currently in the process of writing. This is the day the music almost died.

(Karla writing)

Here are the posts from this day, five years ago.  If you take the time to read them, please notice how matter of fact and void of emotion they are.

Back to Surgery

Just a brief update.  Mike was up at 6 this morning and had a brief seizure.  This was followed by a longer seizure.  They gave as much ativan as they could and moved him back up to neuro ICU.  Somewhere in that process they discovered that his blood pressure was low and the heart was not working right.  The ultrasound showed blood clots in two parts of his heart and something else in a third.  They think that the filter may have broken loose and that is the unknown item.

I am posting this at about 11 a.m. on February 26th, and they have just taken him into surgery.  If it all goes routinely, it will be 4-6 hours long.  They will remove the clots, the other thing, and fix what they think is a hole in his heart, if need be.  The doctors use words like unstable, critical, and high risk.  Not good.  Our optimistic Dr. Fogleson said that this is an extremely serious situation.

We know that God has this entire situation in His control.  We ask that you would lift Mike and the surgeons up to our God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Out of Surgery

These next posts will probably be brief and to the point.  You might wonder why I even bother.  One reason is that we have such a great number of people following this, and then praying.  The other reason is that now I just have to wait.  I might as well let others know what’s going on here.  The surgery went very well.  They were able to do everything they wanted to do.  They removed one very large clot and several smaller ones.  The filter is in place, so they do not know where the clots came from.  He had very low blood pressure for four hours, so there are concerns regarding the kidneys from that.

There is also now an issue with the head wound.  It looks infected today for the first time.  The neurosurgeons will aspirate it and may end up going in again and clean it out.  That may happen as soon as the cardiac people allow it.  Dr. Meyer is dumbfounded by all this and said that he has never seen anything like it.  He also commended the cardiac surgeon’s quick work, saying that if it had not been so fast Mike would be dead by now. On the positive side, the swelling in the brain is almost gone and all the blood from the AVM surgery is gone, which explains the great progress he was making in rehab.

He will be on the ventilator for about the next 24 hours.  After that they will wake him up and see how his neurological functioning is.  Between now and then we can just wait and pray.

As I read what I wrote five years ago, my words do not even come close to conveying what I was going through.  If brain surgery day was hard, and blood infection day harder, heart surgery day was off the charts hard and almost unbearable.  One of the things that I repeatedly told myself during this whole ordeal was that there were so many more people who had it worse.  So many more wives and children suffering more than we were.  So many more people in worse condition than Mike was.  Especially at Mayo. On this day, I truly felt that I had it about as bad as anyone in the world at that moment in time.  I didn’t stay in that thought long, but for awhile I was there.

I never really relayed all the events of that day.  Before I go into it all, as you read this, please don’t judge me.  You never know how you will react in a situation until you are in it.  As I have looked back over the past few years, there are some things that I have felt extremely bad, even guilty, about.  I shouldn’t have.  I didn’t do anything wrong.  In retrospect it just looks like rather bizarre behavior to me.

Some background on the events of that day. Mike had wanted me to go home to see the kids the night before because a storm was coming.  I had told him that I would not go home until he could push the button himself to call the nurse.  When you are in rehab, nurses try not to bug you all night long.  Once you are in bed for the night, they do not come in again until 7 in the morning unless you call.  Up to this point, Mike had not been able to push the button.  So when he woke up during the night and asked me to call the nurse because he wanted something for his back pain, I not so nicely said, “If you want me to go home tomorrow, push the button.”  He did, and took a single Tylenol for the back pain.  Yes, a storm was coming for sure!

My initial post said that Mike was up at 6 and had a brief seizure.  It seemed like an eternally long seizure, not brief.  And I don’t really know that it was short.  I know that they gave him 4 doses of ativan, which was all they could give him, so it was probably really quite long and he was basically just knocked out afterward.  Oh, and his heart quit beating and he wasn’t breathing.  I don’t really know if that in and of itself would stop a seizure, but I would think so.  After imploring the nurse to move more quickly, asking whether or not he was breathing, and the crash team coming in after she had called a code, I left.

At this point you may have a few questions.  I know what they are because several people asked me these questions.  “Why did you leave?  How long did they work on Mike before his heart started beating and he could breathe again?  What exactly did they do to him?”

This is where you need to not judge.  I know people who stay in the room when this sort of thing happens.  I know people who do not leave the side of the person who is in the hospital.  I am not that person.  I figured that the ten or so people who were in the room trying to figure out what was going on did not need a hyperventilating wife around.  Hyperventilating wives is not a normal occurrence in the rehab unit.  So once again I had no place to go.  Since every spare person was in my husband’s room, they sent me to the nurses’ break room to calm down.  I eventually came out.

I also have no idea how long they worked on Mike.  I do know that they did CPR and broke ribs in the process.  A couple years after the whole ordeal, we finally asked for more details.  Specifically, the doctors all kept saying, “Well they had to use pressors on you, which is very serious.”  We had no clue what these were.  After the fact we learned that pressors were used to keep Mike’s blood pressure up.  Due to the clots that were in his heart and lungs, he hardly had a blood pressure.  We now know that most doctors would use a couple pressors, and if that didn’t work, the person died.  The critical care doctor working on Mike used 5.  Five is an unheard of number of pressors to use.  Every doctor we saw for several days commented on what amazing work this critical care doctor did.  I don’t even know his name.  He had a South African accent, but I only met him once.  So all I really know is what they did worked, and they quickly moved him back to the neuro ICU to figure out what was going on.

In the midst of all this, I was trying to get ahold of someone to come stay with me.  The friend from Iowa who was there was getting ready and didn’t hear her phone ring.  I finally got ahold of Connie Krueger, who I was staying with, to see if she would come up.  She called Denae Harder, a college acquaintance who became a good friend, and they both came to the hospital, even as the snow was bearing down and Denae’s kids were home from school because of the storm.  I also had the pastor who our Iowa friend was staying with show up, as well as my pastor from my childhood who now lives in Rochester.  So we had small army to gather to hold me up through all this and to pray for my dear husband.

I also made several other phone calls.  To my parents, who said they would leave immediately.  My sister took the older boys in to Des Moines and they came up too.  The husband of the friend who was already up there with me came up, as well as my father-in-law and friends from church.  All in a terrible blizzard.  I was very grateful they all arrived safely!  I also called several friends who told me afterwards that I sounded like I was in shock.  I am sure that I was.  I don’t know how else you get through something like that.  I will say that my calls left many of them very concerned.  One friend who is a doctor could hardly make it through the day, crying out of concern for us.  Our pastor friends talked to doctors in their churches and were told that Mike would likely die.  One friend told me that she was rehearsing in her head what she would say to me when she saw me at Mike’s funeral.  Do those words hit you anywhere close to how they hit me?  Mike’s funeral. I have tears running down my cheeks now.

After I made these phone calls, I went back in to talk to the doctors.  They were all visibly shaken, which is not normal for these doctors even in bad situations.  They still did not know what was going on, and would let me know when they did.  By this time Denae and Connie had arrived and were listening with me.  Always good to have extra ears!  I was also very shaky and weak feeling.  So any guesses as to what I did next?  Again, don’t judge.  Yep, I went to the cafeteria and had breakfast.

My husband is literally dying, and I went to eat.  Who does this?  I can’t remember if someone suggested this to me, but that’s what I did.  And this is what I have felt guilty about for 5 years.  Why would I leave my dying husband for food?  Granted, it took care of the shakiness, but someone could have gotten me food.  I vaguely remember saying that I would go get it myself, but it still seems bizarre to me.  I attribute it to being in shock, and having reached the threshold of intensity that I could handle. So Denae and I went and had breakfast.  We weren’t gone long, and it was enough of a break for me to catch my breath for the next round of stress.

And it began again immediately.  Upon getting back, I found out that the doctors thought surgery was the best option.  There were two surgeons in the country who do the surgery Mike needed, and one of them “just happened” to be at Mayo.  He also “just happened” to be the surgeon on call that day.  And “just happened” to be between surgeries so he could operate on Mike.  Dr. Meyer came in with a surgical fellow that I could barely understand who explained what they planned to do.  He explained the risks involved, that if Mike survived the surgery, which was a big if, he could end up permanently paralyzed on the right side as he currently was, completely paralyzed, or even in a vegetative state.  They did not know how long he had been without oxygen or if the surgery would be successful.  They did know that his kidneys had shut down, which is the first in the order of organs that shut down when there is a lack of oxygen to the body. They needed my permission to do the surgery.  I asked Dr. Meyer what he thought and he said that Mike was young and they should do everything possible.  I then signed the long form without reading a word of it, something I never do.

After they left, I broke down.  I explained to my friends that before the brain surgery, Mike and I had talked about what I was supposed to do in a situation like this.  Well let me tell you, there is no such thing as “A situation like this.”  It is not a black and white issue, which is how I like issues to be.  Mike had told me that if a situation arose that would leave him in a vegetative state, I was not to pursue medical treatment.  I wondered out loud if that is what I had just done.  The pastor, who was the friend of a friend, Randy Charlton, gave excellent counsel.  He told me that Mike had never envisioned this situation and could not have known what he was asking of me.  He told me that Mike’s days were in God’s hands, which is exactly what Mike and I believe, and that it was up to God to take care of it.  If this was the day when Mike’s number of days were complete, God would take care of it.  So I was at peace with the decision that I had just made.  I then asked if I could have a minute with Mike before they took him to surgery.  They said to make it quick.

So I went in and laid hands on my husband and asked God to heal him.  And if he was not to be healed, please take him quickly and painlessly.  And then I left Mike in God’s hands, which is where he was whether I verbalized it or not.  I was very thankful for the small army that sat with me throughout the day and the group that arrived that night.

As you know, since Mike is still alive, the surgery was successful.  Mike is not upset with me for my bizarre behavior, and didn’t even know about till last week.  Once he was settled in his room by late afternoon, I was hungry again, so my parents took us to the Canadian Honker for supper.  Yes, once again, I know where I ate.  My parents, Luke and Benj, my sister Betsy and brother-in-law Brandon, and a friend from Iowa.  We had a brief respite from the stress and then back to the hospital we went.  I will say that it was hard to leave Mike there that night.  He was on a ventilator and looked like he was not alive.  There were two nurses monitoring him all night.  And my parents had gotten a couple hotel rooms across the street from the hospital, so I would be close.  I was able to sleep and be back there first thing the next morning.

I am worn out after writing this.  We have said it before, but it all feels so real to us still.  I remember things as I see them, so I can still see all these events unfolding in my mind.  The pain is different now, because of all we have been through since, but I understand it more.  It has shaped me and is a part of my life.  And now I can cry and move on.  Today Mike and I went out for lunch to celebrate five years of life that looked like it wasn’t going to be.  One of our kids asked why they didn’t get to celebrate too.  So we said we’ll do that this weekend.  I am so thankful that God miraculously spared Mike’s life and that we are where we are today!  I love you, honey!

Mike’s take on that day: An amazing mercy from God and an amazing wife! I love you too honey!

Remembering the past as an encouragement for the present and future

I haven’t written a single blog posting since February of this year (2012).  Prior to this I had gone 40 straight months with at least one post.  I still check my blog stats once in awhile and continue to be surprised by what I find.  Word press now has a world map that shows the different countries represented in viewing the blog.  India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Russia, Tajikistan…really?

Much to my surpise there has never been a single day in the last 47 months where there were no hits on my blog.  People use search engines and amazingly find their way to my blog.  So far the blog has received 147,759 page views from 250 postings and has received 1,156 comments.  We had 5,790 page views on February 26, 2009 on the day that I had the emergency open heart surgery to remove blood clots from my heart and lungs after coding, and all of this just two weeks after having brain surgery to remove a peach sized  AVM (arteriovenous malformation) from the left frontal lobe of my brain.  Forty six days spent at Mayo Clinic before coming home.

Not a single day goes by that I don’t remember those harrowing days for me and for my entire family.  I remember the past and see that my life, by all human estimates and conventional wisdom should have ended three and a half years ago….But it did not.  And so I am here, still alive, still at my post, still being a redeemed sinner day after day.

I figured some of my many facebook friends will not even have known about this most important of events in my life…since I haven’t been on facebook all that long.  Now you will.

One of my favorite professors while I was in seminary was my  New Testament professor Dr. Tom Schreiner.

His dear wife Diane suffered a traumatic (left) brain injury in a bicycle accident on August 17, 2012.  She underwent emergency brain surgery to remove a blood clot and is struggling with speech and cognition.She is entering full time rehab today and can use all the prayers she can get.  I know the family would appreciate it as well.

I see all sufferings differently now, but remain convinced of the truth of Romans 8:28 that “for those who love God all things work together for good”..ultimately that is. This has been my theme since the first seizure that revealed the oddity within my brain…my brain.  Suddenly these things become much more personal when it’s you or someone you love that is on the other side of healthy.

Romans 8:28 does not mean that bicycle accidents and AVM’s are good things.  They are not.  But God is God and is not surprised by anything at all, as all of the details of our lives are micromanaged by an omnipotent and loving Creator who upholds the entire universe by the word of His power and yet stoops to see the faltering sparrow and knows the end from the beginning, because He is already there.  And you aren’t.

Pondering the past and encouraged for the present and future,

Mike Evans

Words I spoke for my mom’s funeral eulogy on February 14, 2012

My mother was a very pretty lady!
Mom's high school graduation picture, Montezuma, Iowa
The Evans Family circa 1966
Wedding Day

Eulogy for Mom (Reatha Eleanor Evans)

February 14, 2012

As I have been reflecting these past two weeks as mom’s health began to take a turn for the worse I have been thinking…thinking about many things, but thinking mainly about what a long period of time has elapsed since mom was diagnosed with “dementia of the Alzheimer’s type” in 1990, nearly 22 years ago, when mom was just 54 years old.

Twenty two years is a long time, and much water has gone under the bridge during those 22 years. Twenty-two years is longer than all but four of her twelve grandchildren have even been alive. It’s been nearly half of my entire life.   So, there is a grieving at many different levels.

The initial grief of course came when dad and all of us began to see the slow but inexorable decline, and the utterly helpless feeling that none of us could do a thing to stop it. Grief when we all knew full well what would be the probable outcome.

Grief and guilt are cousins I believe, because grief often garners feelings of guilt. Guilt over not knowing what to say or do…guilt over not visiting enough…guilt over…well the possibilities are probably endless…and pointless. For who knows how to deal with this?

None of us had a clue that it would last for 22 years…longer than any other case of Alzheimer’s of which I have heard. Alzheimer’s is truly the long slow goodbye. My dad would care for mom at our home in Newton for the first eight years after mom was diagnosed until he reluctantly, out of necessity, placed her in a nursing home in 1998.

For the past 14 years mom has been in the competent, kind, hands of her caregivers at the Mayflower nursing home here in Grinnell, Iowa, which has become a second family to my dad. My dad faithfully visited mom, held her hand, talked to her, whispered in her ear, fed her meals, and loved her deeply to the very end. Dad’s grief is surely the deepest of all.

There is also a grief that none of my children had the opportunity to know their grandmother in her best days…and only fleeting memories from any of  Bev’s children since they lived in Seattle, Washington until 1996, when they moved back to Newton. But there are some. Kim and Jennifer remember mom teaching them to twirl the baton when they were home on visits as young children and playing with Lincoln logs, and taking walks.

There is a grief over how the family dynamics have evolved over the years largely due to mom’s Alzheimer’s disease. Mom was a very important person in keeping our family together. But rather than carry on in this way allow me to share with you an acronym with each letter of mom’s name “Reatha” representing a different quality of her life. Bev helped me with this some, so if there are ones you don’t like please feel free to blame her.

Relational: Mom was very much a people person…She always had lots of information about others and made connections with people everywhere she went. Mom was Facebook and social networking even before those things were invented. Someone else in our family inherited that same gene and took it to a whole new level. Her name begins with a B and ends with a V…and it’s not me. Oh, and the middle letter is “E.”

The other word we considered for the “R” was relatives. Our family was unique in that we had an especially close relationship with our cousins as we were doubly related…double cousins. That’s what happens when a brother and sister from one family marries a brother and sister from another family.

Eternal Optimist: Always saw the cup as half full, even if there was not a drop of water within 100 miles. She was the polar opposite to the character Eeyore, the eternal pessimist in Winnie the Pooh. Mom looked for the best in people and things in general.

Animated: Whether it was wearing one of her big hats or playing cards mom was animated. I remember many a night of card playing going on beneath my room in Atlantic, Iowa  listening to my mom scream with delight at a particularly good hand or groan at a bad hand. Mom was an avid card player, but unlike her mother who blatantly, but politely, cheated at cards (particularly liverpool rummy) my mom never cheated…to the best of my knowledge anyway.

Mom was particularly animated when one Christmas Eve in the early-mid seventies our family was gathered around the table for supper. Both grandmothers were still alive at the time and were with us for this Christmas Eve dinner in Atlantic.

Halfway through dinner a mouse ran across the floor startling us all. What happened next is the stuff of folklore but I promise you it’s true. That mouse ran head first into a prescription pill bottle that was lying on the kitchen floor, which proceeded to stand up on end due to the momentum the mouse had created. We were all stunned for a moment, barely being able to process what had just happened before our very eyes.

So there we were with mom screaming…probably standing on a stool, and the rest of us laughing at the beady eyes of this mouse looking at us from the bottom of the bottle having just dug his own grave. A Christmas Eve to remember that’s for sure!

Tolerant: I was relieved when mom didn’t kill me after I faked my own murder when I was nine or ten by overturning the furniture in the kitchen, throwing papers on the floor and strategically placing knives in visible areas…I think I even used Karo Syrup with red food coloring to make it look more realistic.

I was relieved when my mother let me live after I blew up firecrackers in the home on one occasion, put a plastic model airplane on a long string, lit it on fire, and spun it around…in my bedroom on another…and when I used mom’s hand cranked meat-grinder to grind up charcoal to make gunpowder (combined with salt peter and sulfur).

My cousin John and I never could figure out how to get that homemade gunpowder to explode. …only burn.  I was also amazed that mom didn’t explode when I got called into the principle’s office at Jackson School for selling itching powder (fiberglass insulation) and smoke bombs (two bottle caps with the tips of stick matches wrapped together with electrical tape). Mom just took all of these things in stride.

Mom was tolerant… but not entirely so. I remember specifically getting my mouth washed out with a bar of Irish Spring soap by mom, after I said something which I shouldn’t have said. Once you’ve tasted Irish Spring not only will you never forget it but you will probably never use it again in your life…even though it smells good.

Happy, Hospitable, and Hamburger Helper. My mom was a very happy and cheerful person, almost always upbeat. I’m not just saying that. Mom was a happy person and you could almost always find a smile on her face. Her own happiness was very much related to seeing other people happy as well.

You may have noticed that for having just two children mom and dad hit the jackpot on grandchildren, with twelve. Bev and Jeff have seven children and Karla and I only contributed five to the treasury.

In those early years when Bev and Jeff would call home with news of another baby on the way…all that Bev needed to say was “But mom we’re happy to have another child on the way” and that would be enough to quiet most concerns on mom’s part. Mom was happy if other people were happy.

Mom cared deeply about others. As Proverbs 31:20 says of the virtuous wife “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.” I remember specifically helping mom deliver Meals on Wheels in Atlantic, Iowa and participating in other service projects for the poor and needy and senior citizens. Mom and dad took us on a working vacation to Oklahoma in the middle of a blazing hot summer to work on repairing a church building.

Proverbs 31:26 says of the virtuous wife “…the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Mom was a kind woman, and regularly demonstrated hospitality. She used to like to use the phrase “hostess with the mostest” in referring to others, but that’s a phrase that she could wear as well.

Hamburger Helper. Well, let’s just say that it would not do my mother’s memory justice not to mention this staple of the Evans household for many year. One box of Beef Noodle Hamburger Helper mixed with one pound of hamburger was what kept us going. Two packages and two pounds when Brad a foster child lived with us. I loved Hamburger Helper!

Active in Church:

Mom was active in church. As Bev and I grew up mom and dad took us to church every Sunday with Bible school in the summer months. After mom and dad were first married they became members of First Baptist Church, where this service is being held today. Next it was the United Methodist Churches wherever they were living. Then in 1978 St. Luke Methodist Church in Newton became our home church…a very loving and caring community.

Mom was a good person…a kind person…a generous and loving person. But these fine qualities in and of themselves, have no merit in God’s eyes with regard to salvation and going to heaven when you die.

Heaven’s gates are open wide for all who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. But there are some prerequisites for heaven.  First you must confess that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Romans 3:23 says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

So what? you might say. What’s the big deal about that? Well, Romans 6:23 tells us why this is such a serious matter. “The wages of sin is death…” both physical and spiritual…the verse goes on to say “…but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Next, you must repent (have a change of heart and mind) regarding your sin and turn to Jesus Christ by faith in His finished work on the Cross for sins.

Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In Acts 4:12 the Apostle Peter said “…there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” This makes it sound as if something more than simply dying is required for admission into heaven.

And there is. Back in 1990 or 1991 just after mom had been diagnosed with dementia I pressed her on this matter of her salvation because I wanted to know where she stood in relation to God. And she told me that through the ministry of Cursillo (an evangelical movement within the Catholic Church) in the early 70’s when she was away for a weekend retreat, “the knowledge of God traveled the 16 inches from her head to her heart.” I pray God that it did.

As First Corinthians 15:54b-55 says, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?….Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. For those who are in Christ death is swallowed up in victory!  Amen and Amen.

The most important posting I will ever write…and a Christmas greeting

(The following is a re-posting of a blog entry from December 2008…and it is still true…all of it!  My attention was drawn back to this posting because of Noel Piper including it in one of  ten or so articles she referenced in making the observation that Christmas is not a bundle of joy for many people who are in the throes of suffering…all kinds.  Whether it is a chronic physical condition or a piece of universe shattering  bad health news as we received nearly three years ago.   Her blog is way more popular than mine so I took notice when the blog had over 100 hits today! )

Some things in life are more important than outstanding health, but not many. Some things are more important in life than a well functioning family where loving relationships rule the day, but not many. Some things in life are more important than an AVM free brain, but not many. What follows is what is more important to me than all these things combined. 

Please watch the following clip from an ER episode…perhaps the single most powerful moment I have ever witnessed on television.

I’m not sure of the exact context of this clip. We didn’t watch this last season of E.R. All I know is that what this character was expressing near the end of his life was real. This is spectacular acting that sends chills down my spine every time I watch it.

Why? Because I know that what he was expressing was the undeniable truth of which Solomon spoke in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that God has set eternity into man’s heart. There are many ways to suppress this reality but in the end nothing can overcome what is.

The pablum that this liberal chaplain was giving to this man was less than worthless. It was a self-exalting agnostic mindless nihilism where all is meaningless.

This man was afraid of what was going to come next and the “professional” clergy had nothing to bring to the table.  He wondered if atonement was even possible and she answered that it was up to each one of us to interpret what God wants.

He had regrets. He wanted answers. He knew enough that he believed God was real and hell was real, but he wanted answers…someone who could look him in the eye and tell him how to find forgiveness because he was running out of time.

My calling in this life, besides being a husband and father is to be a pastor. My biblical job description as a pastor is, among other things, to preach and teach the whole counsel of God to the people entrusted to my care. My privilege is to provide answers from the Word of God to people who have real questions…like the man in the video clip.

It’s not that I have all the answers to life’s daunting questions, but I believe with every fiber of my being that truth does exist, that God is real, and that we can know with certainty the most important answers in life.

As my family and I walk through these interesting days I find it troubling that some are taking the news about the thing in my brain harder than I am or than we are as a family.

I’ve been open and honest in these postings so you know that we are not cruising above the clouds at 50,000 feet in some kind of cocoon of protection where the sun always shines. Not at all. There are anxious moments and days for us all.  We can bum out and be depressed.  We do bum out and are depressed on occasion.

But I assure you of this. There is no fear. I may have difficulty believing that this is all happening but I do not have fear about this upcoming surgery. I  have moments of anxiety in thinking through worst case outcomes… not a pleasant exercise with my vivid imagination. But we are not living in fear.

It is not because we are extra special people. It is not because we have an unusual fortitude about us. It is not because of any external thing. Rather, it is because we are followers of Jesus Christ, who gives true and lasting peace.  My Christmas present to all of you who read this blog from all over this world, from many different ethnic and religious backgrounds and educational levels is this:

I am going to let you in on what I might have said to the man in the video on death’s doorstep… who wanted real answers.

First, I would have explained to him how every single person on this planet who has ever been born of woman, except Jesus the Christ, has been born a sinner and thus separated from the life of God. Sin is simply missing the mark of God’s perfect demands. Only a complete fool would deny this reality about himself.

Second, I would explain to this man that there was a baby boy born to a virgin named Mary about two thousand years ago. Before this baby was born an angel appeared to Joseph (who was betrothed to be married to her) in a dream and told him not to fear. The angel also told Joseph to name the baby to be born “…Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). I would tell this man that the very name “Jesus” means “The Lord saves.” This is the reason Jesus, the divine and only begotten Son of the Father, came into this world.

Third, I would explain to this man how Jesus lived a sinless life in perfect obedience to all of God’s Law. I would tell him of Jesus’ roughly three year public ministry where He healed the sick, raised the dead, and loved the lost.

Fourth, I would tell this man with passion in my voice and genuine expression on my face that “Yes, atonement is possible.” At the end of Jesus’ public ministry He was brought before two kangaroo courts, convicted on bogus charges, and sentenced to die a cruel death by crucifixion, alongside two common criminals.

As Jesus hung on the Cross He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In this moment the Father abandoned His Son. And as Jesus died atonement for sin was indeed made for all who will repent (have a complete change of heart and mind regarding their sin) and put their faith in Christ’s finished work on Calvary’s Cross.

In the perfect sacrifice of Christ’s death He paid the just penalty for sin that we could never pay ourselves. God’s wrath should by all rights have fallen on each one of us but it has been averted for all who surrender themselves to Jesus Christ. Redemption was accomplished, but it still must be applied.  There is no such thing as a universal salvation.  All people will not go to heaven in the end.  All paths do not lead to the same place.  All of the major religions of the world do not serve the same God.

As Jesus breathed His last the thick curtain that divided the Holy Place from the Most Holy in the Jewish temple was torn in two (Matthew 27:51). This signified that access to God was now available directly and only through Christ.

The Apostle Paul would later write in I Timothy 2:5 “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” Apart from this one mediator reconcilation with God is impossible.

Jesus said, as John 14:6 records it, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” It may not be popular. It’s certainly not inclusive, but that does not in itself render it untrue.

Finally, I would look this man in the eye and tell him that unless he repents of his sin and puts his faith in Jesus Christ, crucified and literally risen from the dead on the third day, that he will soon enter into an eternity of conscious eternal torment (Matthew 25:41-46) where he will live in a state of perpetual payment of a debt that can never be paid. That’s why hell exists.

I would beg him to consider receiving the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ and not to wait until tomorrow or next year, for no one knows what tomorrow holds. Today is the day of salvation.

I would encourage him, that if God has shown him his need and given him the desire, to do it right now…to pray aloud to God on the spot and tell Him the desire of his heart.  I would encourage him to confess that he is a guilty, lost, and helpless sinner, and with all sincerity ask Christ to save him and take His rightful place as the Lord of his life, enabling him to turn from sin and live for Him. That’s what I would encourage him to pray.

And finally, I would encourage him to begin immediately attending a Bible believing church where the Bible is believed to be the Word of God, where the death, resurrection, and Second Coming of Christ are believed to be literally true, and where the people are filled with grace and love toward one another and outsiders, and where the glory and grandeur of God oozes from its DNA. That’s what I would tell this man. Then I would give him a hug and say “See you later brother,” but only if he believed the biblical truths of which I had spoken and had received them for himself.

I share this with you all because it is part and parcel of who I am. Many of you don’t much about me at all. I’m just the guy with the bogus thing in the brain.   That’s not really who I am. I am first and foremost a redeemed sinner who is a child of the Most High God, who awaits an eternal home in glory, not because of anything I have done, but because of God’s mercy alone.  If nothing else this AVM has given me the opportunity to share with all of you my understanding of the real meaning of Christmas and to learn some new and cool big words.   Thanks for reading and thanks for your continued interest in our lives.

I, and my dear wife Karla, extend our desire for you all to have a Merry Christmas.  Please feel free to contact me by email if you would like to speak to me about these matters more personally. I would be delighted to do so.