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)

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

Be Faithful

“Nothing that we do for God is small.” I read these words from D.L. Moody this morning. It reminds me of the song that says, “Little is much when God is in it.” I need to be reminded of this sometimes. OK. I need to be reminded quite often.

I turned 45 a couple months ago, and it hits me at times that I have more than likely lived over half my life already. Accompanied with that thought is wondering if I have done anything to impact people’s lives and help them to draw closer to the Savior. If I haven’t, then my life has been a waste, and I do not want to end my life that way.

I know I’ve written on this before, but I expect that I am not the only one who needs these reminders. You do not have to be a singer, a speaker, a writer, or a pastor to be used by God. You just have to be faithful. Faithful to live a Godly life, faithful to your family, faithful to the calling God has placed on your life (not someone else’s). If you do that, you will most likely reach more people than you can imagine. You may not even know you are doing so. I will also counter that if you are not living a faithful life, then all the good you think you are doing, you are probably not.

Faithfulness is one of the things that I admire most in a person, but I don’t often tell the people I admire that I do so. I guess that’s something I need to work on.

If you are discouraged today or are caught in the trap of looking up to others while feeling insignificant yourself, look up. Examine your life in the light of God’s Word. If you are living a life of obedience, that is all He asks. He will bring the increase. Just keep being faithful.

Rejoice!

Sometimes it’s good to look back down
We’ve come so far; we’ve gained such ground
But joy is not in where we’ve been
Joy is who’s waiting at the end

As I sat down to write this afternoon, these lyrics came to mind (taken from the song “Run After God With All Your Heart”). In my case, I am looking back to where my health was from January to April of this year, and I am thanking God for how far He has brought me. It’s easy to still be discouraged when I think that I’m not where I want to be yet, but why would I complain when God is continuing to do a work in my life?

Nobody likes to be around someone who is always down, and I imagine that is true for God as well. As long as everything is going well, we are full of praise and adoration for Him, but when something happens that we don’t like, we grumble and complain and fret. How that must make Him sad! After all, He is still as powerful as He was last week, but we very quickly lose sight of that.

I confess that I do this too often, but I pray to lift up my eyes of faith to see what God is doing instead of focusing on the negative that can cause discouragement and depression. I want to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

I would like to see every Believer share more praise reports than prayer requests. We have both, and I love to pray for my Brothers and Sisters, but often the needs overshadow God’s goodness. In the midst of our trials, let’s not forget to rejoice because He is good!