The Wonder of the Mirror

mirror

Things are not always as they appear. Sometimes, appearances can be very deceiving. That was true the day the knock came on the mirror and the horror that came with realizing that somebody would have to answer.

The preceding days held nothing ominous. If there had been an inkling of an idea that something was amiss, then I would have done everything in my power to prevent things from happening. But then again, in hindsight, I am not sure that I would. Changing the inevitable does not always bring a modicum of joy or happiness. Getting our way would actually be a miserable existence.

The actual morning dawned. As usual, it was beautiful. The sun rose around the world, but by nightfall things would be very different. The problem was that I knew about the mirror but I was too young and naïve to think that it could ever affect me.

Preparing for work, I began to feel some odd twinges, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Opening the door, I said goodbye to the family but was stopped when the phone rang. It was not unexpected and I was in no hurry, so I answered. In my mind, I think I knew before I responded, but the mirror glared back at me. I dropped my gaze first as I listened to the voice on the other end.

“Hello, I need you to meet me at the hospital. There is nothing to worry about, but I would be quick just in case.”

To this day, I cannot remember whether I responded in a courteous fashion or not. The caller informed me though that they would be there waiting for me. What I can recall is exceeding the speed limit on several major roads. A trip that should have taken about 15 minutes, I made in less than 10 with change to spare.

Only one ambulance was in the bay as I ran through the doors marked EMERGENCY. All decorum was absent as I blindly stumbled to the nurse’s station. As I approached the desk, one of my senses did not fail me. My hearing has always been excellent and today was no exception.

I introduced myself to the nurses and I noticed them looking oddly at each other when I gave my name. One of them stood to her feet and asked me to come and wait for the doctor to finish. As soon as he was free, he would come and let me know what was happening. Sitting down in the waiting room, nothing seemed out of the ordinary except for the mirrored glass that covered almost one entire wall.

After what seemed like an eternity, I grew impatient. Standing to my feet, I opened the door of the waiting room and went back to the nurses’ station.

“Hi, I am sure the doctor is busy, but I would really like some information. May I just go back to the examination room?”

“Sir, we just got word from the doctor and he said he should be up to speak with you in just a matter of minutes. Please wait for him in the room.”

Walking slowly back to the room, I opened the door and stepped in. Closing it back behind me, something back to nag at me as I stared at my dim reflection in the mirrored glass.

When time stands still, it is impossible to give an accurate description of a timeline. In my case, the next few minutes took another eternity while I pondered my location. As soon as my mind went through a myriad of possible computations, I came to a stark conclusion.

First, there was nobody in the room with me. There were always people in the Emergency Room. Not but a couple of weeks before, I had brought one of my children to the same hospital because they had fallen out of bed and split their head open requiring stitches.

Second, this waiting room had a door on it and while I had seen several people walk by who were not staff members, nobody had entered my waiting room.

Third, just as my brain realized that I was clearly in the wrong room, the doctor entered with another individual by his side. It was an older woman and she did not have a lab coat on. In fact, the only thing that I could focus on was the lapels of her jacket. Both lapels held a small, almost inconspicuous piece of jewelry that had been fashioned in the shape of a cross.

The doctor sat down at my left hand and the woman with the emblem on her lapels sat immediately to my right. Neither of them sat back in leisure, but were on the edge of their seats looking at me.

The room began to spin and I realized that my heart was not prepared for what the doctor began to say.

“Sir, I am sorry, but there was nothing we could do! We tried everything, but your brother is gone!”

That beautiful morning turned black. I knew that a knock from the other side of eternity had taken my brother from what C.S. Lewis called the Shadowlands of earth into the brightness of heaven where there is no night, no tears, and no death.

Each taking a hand, they walked me back to the exam room. My heart still aches as I remember looking down on the still face of my 22 year old brother, John. The pictures will always be in my mind of that day along with the torture of the funeral preparations. He was my best friend. No friends, no co-workers, and no family had yet joined me, and I felt more alone than I have done at just about any other point in my life.

Unbeknownst to us, he had developed a virus in his heart. Less than a year after getting out of the military with a clean bill of health, his heart had simply exploded. We later learned the EMTs were already in the building just about six or seven steps away. Ironically, they had taken over helping a lady who was having an angina attack.

The only first aid certified individual in her office had been my brother. Giving the care over to the EMT staff, he had turned and walked over to his desk, sat down, and fallen over dead.

Somehow, I managed to go back to my home. It was my responsibility to bear the brunt of the emotions as I called my parents who lived overseas. I called my brothers and sisters and informed them in different parts of the country, but nothing would change the fact that eternity had come calling for my brother, and he had answered.

I would have to say that I would not want him to have to come back to this world of misery and woe. The land where he lives is a land beyond compare and he did not have to grow old while dealing with sickness and pain. As I look from this side of the mirror, I realize that there are shadows on the other side. At my age, they are growing closer now than they were 23 years ago when my brother was called.

Sadly, we can only see glimpses every now and then of the joys that lie beyond this mortal pale. One day, we too will hear a clear, distinct knock. However, when the knock comes for us, it will actually open and the door will be a welcome intrusion. For those we leave behind, they will mourn, but one day, they will be able to join us on the other side. We will see clearly and realize that our journey was designed to take us from the shadows into the most incredible clarity that we cannot currently imagine.

The thought of seeing what is on the other side is not as scary as it was 10, 20, or 30 years ago. There are times the unknown reflects back to us in ways we cannot comprehend. We know there is something there, but all we see is our own reflection. For now I must go, but I am trying to prepare harder for the knock on the mirror. Whether I like it or not, it is coming. I will be ready.

1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face…”(ESV)

NOT Part of the Gospel

John MacArthur has started a new series from Ezekiel 18 entitled, “Social Justice and the Gospel.”  He is very thorough and rightly concludes from Scripture that “social justice” is NOT part of the Gospel.  Too many, even in evangelicalism, are being taken in by a society that thinks it is entitled.  In doing so, pastors are failing their congregations by adding to the truth of God’s Word.  I encourage you to listen to this series.

All for 25 Feet

Almost 63 years ago, life ended for the lack of just 25 feet.

On August 26, 2018, as I have done many times in the past, I stood on a summit called Libby Flats. This windswept plateau is located about a twenty-minute drive from the town of Centennial, Wyoming. The beautiful town is nestled at the base of the Snowy Range and boasts a population of just 270. Libby Flats is at an elevation of 10,869 feet.

As the cold winds gusted up to 40+mph, I stared in awe at the beauty of the creation surrounding our family. From a vantage point that is higher than every state east of the Rockies, it seemed as though you could see into tomorrow.

An elderly man was visiting the summit as well. Together we looked up at Medicine Bow Peak and began to ponder the brevity of life. Medicine Bow is a rocky outcrop that sits at 12,014 feet above sea level. From our vantage point just 1,145 feet below, you cannot miss the only peak that juts up from the landscape.

Yet, on October 6, 1955 and in daylight, a United Airlines flight took a shortcut to save a little bit of time. Just 25 feet from clearing the only obstacle in its flight path, the life of Flight 409 came to an abrupt and fiery end. But it was not just the ripping and shrieking of metal that hit the rocks. On board the flight from Denver to Salt Lake City were 66 souls.

summitpic

Ponder that for a moment, 66 souls crossed the line from the land of the living into the vastness and never-ending continuum known as eternity. Life ended all because flight plans were not followed, life ended because a pilot thought he could get away with taking a shortcut.

In the subsequent investigation, it was learned that Flight 409 was not unique. Many pilots did the same thing. Each pilot plotted his course, but then deviated substantially from that path. The last time it happened resulted in a devastating loss of military members, normal families, and two infants.

Together, the old man and I talked about what that last moment would have entailed. In a just a couple of seconds, the pilot and co-pilot would have realized their mistake and maybe together tried hauling back on the yoke. Desperately fighting for their survival, they knew immediately that just 25 feet of unyielding rock came between them and life.

It is said that the one thing we learn from history is that we never learn from history. Life is no different today than it was 66 years ago, or even 2,066 years ago.

People are still dying from trying to take shortcuts in life. They have a purpose in life, but people think they can save time by cutting through the mountains. Instead of just flying around them and enjoying the beauty, they miss their purpose and their perspective.

I looked one last time at Medicine Bow Peak and wondered if there were areas in my life where I was on course to crash just 25 feet short. If we are not careful, we can bring ruin to our lives and even destruction by thinking we can take unscheduled shortcuts.

My dad always told me growing up that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing right. In turn, I have taught my five children the same thing. Life is short enough without getting caught up in the shortcuts that life sometimes has to offer.

Drugs, sex, alcohol, workaholic tendencies, destructive habits — all of these can seem like what you think you need to make life work. For a while, life will fly smoothly along under your wings until the moment that it all comes apart.

Plan your life accordingly. Don’t allow deliberate shortcuts to creep in and take over your flight plans. Life can be difficult, but the peaks of difficulties can be overcome.

However, you cannot fly blindly. Enjoy the reason why you are here. When your life and mine comes to an end, our epitaph should not read as an accident.

Enjoy life. Live with purpose.  For the true believer, the only real purpose will be living for Christ each and every day.  There is a saying I have heard since I was a child, “Only one life, it will soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

As I pondered the brevity of life on the mountain, I also could not help but wonder where each of those 66 souls ended up in eternity.  Despite what the world wants us to believe, there are only two destinations.  For those without faith in Christ alone, there is only hell.  For those with faith in Christ alone, a joy-filled eternity awaits those who cross from these Shadowlands into the presence of the Savior.

 

Wanted: Love and Grace

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person  ~Colossians 4:6.

Have you ever met someone who prides herself on speaking her mind? I think that phrase alone says a lot: The person who speaks what’s on his mind regardless of how it makes others feel is a proud person. I expect that she doesn’t realize that she sometimes does things that irritates others and yet they show grace to her. Why is it so difficult to bear with “stupid” people?

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ  ~Ephesians 4:15.

A lack of love is another reason some are quick to cut down others. Especially on social media, it is easy to subtly address faceless beings who can’t have feelings and so something they do or say is picked apart by another individual who has no patience with them.

I would like to submit that this kind of behavior is not boldness; many times, it is simply arrogance. By pointing out someone else’s fault (whether you name him or her or not), you are deflecting away from your own faults.

Facebook is the only social media that I am a part of, and I too see things that others say and do that I wouldn’t, but it is their page. They can do what they like on their page. I can participate or not. If I were truly burdened about it, I would send them a private message. If it’s not a burden, why not let it go?

We live in a world where many do not like confrontation. But passive aggressiveness? That’s a different story. Let’s make sure that the things we say and type are encouraging and helpful. There are times when people or situations need to be addressed, but it needs to be done with love and grace.

truthinlove

Support Your Fellow Christians

But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

The above verse is one that is familiar to most Christians, but I wonder how many think about exactly what it means to “seek first the kingdom of God.” I think the most obvious interpretation of this is that we should be seeking, first and foremost, to be more like Jesus. This involves surrendering our will to His and learning what He desires of us. One area that I think is hard for a lot of people to surrender is that of finances.

With the ever-rising popularity of places like Walmart and Amazon, many “mom and pop” companies have gone by the wayside. We see fewer cottage industries because everyone knows that they can’t compete with companies that have a large enough bank account to buy products for next to nothing and then sell to the consumer for less than you or I could sell them for.

I am not saying that it is wrong to shop at big stores and save money. I like to bargain shop myself. And, if we are talking twice the price or more to order from a Christian company, my budget would probably not allow me to spend that much. However, I have found instances where the savings is only a few dollars, and this is where I would much rather support my fellow Christians or local businesses.

One reason this is weighing heavy on my heart, besides the fact that I just started my own online bookstore, is that I travel the country setting up booths to sell books for Family Renewal and Master Books. These companies spend a lot of time and money to go to conventions where people can look through the books to decide what they would like to purchase. Then many times they go home and order from Amazon or another discount seller, leaving us to pack up the inventory and take it back home. No wonder conferences are dying left and right as exhibitors are no longer covering their expenses.

What many don’t realize is that, when you purchase that really cheap product from a discounter, the creator of the product gets very little from that sale. If you buy a book on Amazon, for example, the author probably makes less than $2/book. Less than $1 in some cases. Most authors are happy to get books into people’s hands so they would rather folks buy from Amazon than not buy, but if you want to support your favorite author and help him or her to be able to continue to write and, in some cases, support their families, then it is much better to purchase directly from the author or another Christian distributor that doesn’t discount very much.

As Christians, we are to be good stewards of the funds God has given us, but we also need to pray about where to use those funds and who He desires to bless through our purchases. It is His money after all.

I Love You

I love you. One of the most beautiful phrases that you can say and yet society has distorted love to the point that, if you were to tell someone you love them, especially outside of your immediate family, they might become uncomfortable or look at you as if they’re trying to figure out what you want from them. The sad thing is that, because of this, many people feel unloved. Many moms and dads never even tell their children they love them because they are not accustomed to doing so, and they assume that their children just know somehow. I believe one of the reasons suicide is rampant today is because of this lack.

The New Testament is full of verses instructing us to love each other.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (John 13:34).

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7).

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8).

There are plenty of ways to let others know that you love them and, if you had to choose between telling a person or showing them, I strongly recommend showing them, but I would encourage you to let someone know that the reason you serve them, pray for them, spend time with them is because you love them. Not because you are obligated but because Christ has placed a love within you that flows to those around you. Try it out this week. If it’s someone that you have never told before, they may not know how to respond, but that may just be the person that needs the reminder that they really are loved.

Helping One of Our Contributors

Twenty years ago, I had the privilege of having my first article published in The Homeschool Digest. I was referred to them and it was suggested that I contact the company.  Submitting my article, I was not sure whether it would meet the criteria for what they were looking to publish in their monthly magazine. However, I received a gracious response and with a few edits, my article made me a published author.

A contributor and one of the editors of the magazine was none other than one of our contributors, Sony Elise. About a year after the article was published, our family moved to Michigan and we learned that we only lived about three miles from Sony and her family. Connections were made and our families were able to spend time together enjoying meals and Christian fellowship.

Twenty years later, Sony has been an encouragement to many and continues to do so with her words of encouragement on Truth in Grace. While her health does not permit her to do a great deal away from her home, she has about 25 years of professional editing experience behind her. She has her own editing business which has benefitted myself and J.L. Pattison, who is another contributor here.

Over the last 2 months, we have been working together on a collaboration that would help incorporate her editing and her love of good Christian material. With that, it is my privilege to introduce her new online bookstore, Sony Elise Christian Books.

Sony’s intentions are not to compete with Amazon or other major bookstores, but to offer a small selection of good reading material. Supporting her new business helps her to support herself and also helps to support Christian Indie authors who are self-published. Many large name companies will not publish many Christian authors because the author is unknown or because the message in their book is not acceptable in mainstream evangelicalism.

More books will be coming to the current selection, but I also encourage you to visit, like, and share her Facebook page. You will be helping a friend, a prayer warrior, and an encouraging sister.

Every blessing in Christian love and grace,

Mark Anthony