Monday, January 12, 2015

Mom’s Story - Violet Bowers

On Christmas Eve, 2014, the mother of my dear friend George Bowers was severely burned in a kitchen fire; on Christmas 2014 she went to be with Jesus. What follows is George's account of the last hours of his mother's life on earth - blessed in the eyes of the LORD is the death of His saints. While many have already read this account via an email I sent out, I include it here for the benefit of a wider readership. Please pass it on to God's glory.

        About 8:30am on Christmas Eve, 2014, our mother, Violet Bowers, had a serious accident with her gas cook stove resulting in third degree burns over 50 percent of her body.  After pressing her alert button, rescue teams immediately responded.  What happened over the next 33 hours was nothing short of miraculous and is a story that must be told. 

Mom told the first responders to tell her family that she loved us and not to feel guilty because she wanted to live on her own.  As the squadmen took her to Rockingham Hospital, she told them how blessed she was and sang with them.  One of them said that of all the calls she’s answered, she’s never encountered a woman with such great faith.  “To hear your mother praising Jesus and singing hymns as she was being transported to the hospital will forever change my life.  I was there to take care of her, and I found myself being strengthened.” 

          At RMH, the plan was to transfer her to a waiting helicopter for transport to the UVA burn unit.  She did not want to go.  She was very emphatic that she didn’t want any heroic measures and that she was ready to go to heaven.  Instead, on the verge of shock, or in it, she sang Amazing Grace and What A Friend We Have In Jesus with us in the Emergency Room.  As we read her Bible verses, she quoted them along with us under her oxygen mask.  When I stumbled over part of Psalm 23, she kept going, loudly quoting, “Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”  And she feared no evil.  She told one the ER Doctors, “He’s always with me and to think that Jesus came to earth at this time of year to save us from our sins.”  She ministered to her family, to the hospital chaplain, and to other pastors who came to “strengthen” her.   

            After getting her in a hospital room for whatever remaining time she had left, she led her family in singing the Doxology which begins, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”  When asked if she was ok, she said, “I don’t know how I could be any more comfortable.”  She told us she knew we had a lot to do on Christmas Eve and to go take care of our families.  We assured her that we were taking care of our family.  She continued to profusely thank her nurses and us for all that everyone was doing.  She requested that we sing, “Meet Me There,” which we did as she sang along.  She said, “God has been so good to me.  I’ve had such a good life.  I’m so blessed.”

            As far as we could tell, Mom was never in any pain and we thank God for this special miracle.  But her peaceful calm response in the face of such trauma demonstrates the fruit of her lifestyle over the preceding 84 years.  She prayed and sang and memorized Scriptures long before she needed them in an emergency.  She cultivated the peace of God in her heart all along life’s path and it was there to see her safely through death when her time came.  She didn’t talk much after about 5pm Christmas Eve and went to be with Jesus about 24 hours later on Christmas Day.  As one of her granddaughters observed, “She got the BEST Christmas present.” 

          Mom would be very uncomfortable with all this written about her because she always wanted the attention on Jesus.  But because her life and her death WERE all about Jesus, her testimony must be shared.  Mom would like nothing more than for someone else to put their faith in Jesus as a result of her living and dying.  It was and is her desire for us all to “Meet Her There” in heaven.  If you’ve never accepted Jesus as your Savior, just admit that you’ve sinned and ask God to forgive you.  Repent and turn from sin and ask God to save you and He will.  Then find a Bible believing church and begin to live each day like mom did, worshiping, praising, and obeying Him that we might all fulfill her desire and “Meet Her There.”  Blessings, George

Saturday, January 3, 2015

An Amazing Football Game and the Kingdom of God

As I’ve probably mentioned sometime in the past, two of my favorite football games to watch replays of are the November 10, 1984 (college) Maryland – Miami game and the January 3, 1993 (NFL) Buffalo – Houston game. Maryland trailed by 31 points at the half; Buffalo trailed by 32 points during the game. Maryland and Buffalo both came back to win in what were, at the time, the greatest comebacks in college and NFL history. As amazing as both comebacks were, perhaps more amazing was that Frank Reich was the backup quarterback for both teams who came in the game to lead them to improbable victories.

I recently watched a replay of the Maryland – Miami game and found myself asking, “How is Maryland ever going to come back and win this game? How is this possible?” Being a Maryland fan I also found myself a bit tense as Miami continued to run up the score in the first half and as the clock wound down in the second half. As the game moved toward its conclusion Miami had an opportunity to score and I again felt tension…even though I knew I was watching a replay!  Perhaps you’ve had similar feelings when watching a movie that you already knew the outcome of?

The evening after I watched the replay a friend and I were discussing the state of the world and the Kingdom of God. We touched on Daniel Chapter Two and the assurance we have that the “stone cut without hands” would destroy the kingdoms of the world and become a great mountain, filling the entire earth. In other words, we have read the last chapter of the book and God wins. Yes, things can look bleak in the world – wars and hunger and disease and man’s destruction of creation and the repudiation of the image of God in myriad forms – but there is a Stone which will destroy all that opposes the true and living God and that will bring the Kingdom of God into full manifestation on the earth.

Even though we know the outcome of history, however, does not mean that we don’t have tension as we walk through the present age and into the age to come (the Kingdom of God which has already come, is coming, and will come). I knew the outcome of the Maryland – Miami game, yet I still had questions and I still had tension – even though the game had already been played. We know the outcome of history, in a sense the game has already been played (though it is hardly a game since the eternal destinies of men and women are at stake), and yet we still have tension, we still have questions, we still have limited understanding.

As I watched Frank Reich lead his team to victory I kept telling myself, “I know how this ends.” When I’m tempted to get caught up in world events, when distractions come at me in the form of social, political, or economic issues, it is good to remind myself that, “I know how this ends.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ matters, and people hearing that Gospel matter. We’re called to love God with all that we are and all that we have and to love others. These are the things that matter. It is natural to have tension and it is natural to have questions, but at the end of the day we know what the score will be – all the kingdoms of this world and this age will become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ. It’s good to remind ourselves of this. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Turning the Page

While I’m not much on New Year’s resolutions because I think they often set us up for disappointment, I do appreciate New Year’s day and turning the page of the calendar from one year to the next. There are seasons and rhythms to life, ebbs and flows, winters and summers, points and counterpoints. Often we are so obsessed with hours and minutes and seconds that we miss the themes and big pictures – and therefore the purposes and possibilities that God sets before us.

Living “in the moment” is not all we’re told it is in pop psychology – dogs live in the moment, and while I love dogs I am not a dog, I am a man created in the image of God and as a man I have the opportunity to enjoy perspective, to contemplate the present, the past, and the future – my puppies, no matter how much I love them, cannot ponder future possibilities, nor ask the “what ifs?” of the past, nor consider myriad options of the present. While we must train dogs “in the moment”; wise women and men know that people often receive their best training after the moment has past and they can reflect back on a decision, an action, an attitude.

People in a hurry generally get nowhere; in this we can learn from our dogs, for all dogs I have ever known eventually realize that the tail they are chasing is their own and at some point they stop going in circles – this cannot be said of us and our culture – we chase after things that we can never catch – “the pursuit of happiness” is a mirage that our Founding Fathers bequeathed to a self-indulgent people.

But to return to turning the page, there is something to be said for New Year’s, just as there is something to be said for sleep, for as sleep marks one day from the next, so the turning of the calendar page from December 31 to January 1 marks one year from another. We need both sleep and New Year’s. In Genesis 1:14 we read: “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years.”

There may be things we can put behind us as we turn the page, there may be other things yet unfinished, and there are undoubtedly things ahead that are unanticipated. Our calendars for the new year all have events written on them with invisible ink – dates with unexpected joys, unexpected challenges, and perhaps with unexpected sorrows.

The world we live in would have us “live in the moment” and live in a materialistic frenzy with the result that we miss the signs and seasons of life, we miss pondering the purpose and meaning of life – and especially of our own lives. When we experience pain we are prescribed drugs or we drink alcohol to excess, when we feel deprived we are given plastic credit cards, when we want to deaden memories of the past or assuage fears of the future we numb our minds with mindless entertainments and activities. We are told that “He or she who dies with the most toys wins” and we don’t even ask, “Why would anyone want to play that game?”

Our kind heavenly Father knows our frailty, and just as He has given us rest in the true Sabbath, our Lord Jesus, so He gives us sleep, so He gives us seasons, and so He gives us new years.  May we all know that whatever the new year holds for us, that He holds the new year – and holding the new year, He also holds us, safe and secure in our Lord Jesus Christ.