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An Unexpected Encounter

Posted by on in Pastoral Encouragement
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The Lord gave me a gift today in an unlikely man.  I was flying back from San Diego, sitting next to a very large man, bald head, mild fu manchu moustache, mid-fifties I suppose.  He was reading a book he had just picked up from an airport kiosk: "Heaven is for Real," which is purported to be a recounting of a young boy's real life experience of heaven.  I didn't think much of it and got busy with my own work... until I noticed he was crying.  A great big man, sitting in the very front row of the airplane, clearly sobbing and wiping his eyes with the back of his huge hand.  

 

Here's the story he told me:  He was crying because the book was talking about a family that was suffering through a miscarriage.  "It touched a sore spot," he said.  His daughter, Janna, had died a few years ago.  He told me about her with evident pride.  She was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was 6 months old.  The doctors gave her about one year to live, but God gave her 25 more.  Her whole life was spent battling cancer, chemo, and the continual grand mal seizures, "But she never complained," he said.  "It was an honor to be her father."  

They took her to church when she was young, thinking it would be good for her. Neither he nor his wife had a church background, and the Episcopalian church they joined became a home for them.   "It saved my life," he said.  At first he struggled with "why."  Why Janna?  Why me?  Why this?  But one day while he was running, he seemed to hear a voice.  He was afraid the stress had gotten to him, that his tired mind and broken heart were conspiring against him.  But the voice couldn’t be denied and the message seemed to be to purposeful: "'Why' isn’t the issue."  It’s all he heard and all he needed.  That particular struggle was over.  God was God and he found relief in that. 

Not that the problems went away.  The cancer, the drinking, the marriage that stretched and strained until it broke. But Janna lived the life she was given with such grace and courage that it strengthened his heart.  And then her own gave way.  “It wasn’t even cancer that killed her,” he said with a teary smile.  “She had a heart attack. She beat cancer even in death.”  It made him proud in a humbled, awed sort of way.

He left the Episcopalian church when they ordained homosexuals.  It just didn’t make sense with the Bible he’d begun to know.  He floated around for a while until his girlfriend finally convinced him to visit her church.  He choked up a bit and apologized.  “This just happened about four months ago.”  The pastor preached the gospel and when he invited straying sinners to give their life to Jesus, he found himself raising his hand.  “I had no intention to.”  But Someone had gotten ahold of him, and his life hasn’t been the same.   

I told him about a wonderful lady in our church who is dying of cancer.  I told him how she said, with tears streaming down her face, "I can honestly say that cancer has been the best thing that ever happened to me."  “I feel the same way,” he said.  “And sometimes I wonder ‘why.’  Why me? Why did I get to be the father of such a beautiful daughter?  Why have I been so blessed?”

Thanks Jeff.  I needed that.

 

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Guest Tuesday, 21 November 2017

This Sunday

9:30 AM - Morning Service

11:15 AM - Sunday School

5:30 PM - Evening Service

Notable Events

10-11
Nov

A Heart for the Harvest Retreat

22
Nov

Thanksgiving Service
7:00 pm

1
Dec

Adult Christmas Party