Serious Van Wreck

Our whole family almost died last Friday night on a trip home from Chicago. We are amazed to be alive.

The five of us were together, traveling home from a great-aunt’s funeral. We were having a nice family time in the van, laughing at old stories.

The weather had just changed, and had become a mix of rain and snow, but it didn’t seem especially dangerous. But it was more slick than we thought, and while passing a semi we hit ice and began fishtailing.

“Oh no,” I heard. We were losing control.

I peered up from the second bench where I had been lying down, and saw the front of our van hit the side of the semi we had been passing. The impact of hitting that semi sent our van violently into the grassy median, and I saw that we were now headed towards the gleaming lights of oncoming traffic. All of a sudden things felt really out of control (we were rolling, but I didn’t realize it at the time) and I heard the loud noise of the van roof crunching in on top of us. I yelled, “Jesus, protect us!” and tried to prepare myself, thinking I was about to feel a ton of pain, and we all might die.

However, after a few seconds, we were stopped by the side of the road, and I didn’t feel the pain I had been anticipating.

“I’m okay!” I said, surprised.
“I’m okay,” my dad responded.
“I’m okay,” Sarah echoed.
“I’m in pain,” my mom said. Just hearing her voice was a relief, but she was holding her stomach and her shirt was getting bloody. She was not able to answer questions very well or identify the location of the pain.

Stephen was already on the phone with 911.

I looked around to get my bearings. We had been going west, but now we were on the far side of the east-bound lanes of the interstate.

Here’s what had happened: We had rolled over the cable separation barrier and landed right side up in oncoming traffic. When Stephen (the driver) refocused his eyes on the road after that roll, he saw the oncoming traffic about to hit us and he thought we were all going to die. However, the momentum kept us moving and we skidded across both lanes of traffic. Once Stephen saw we were on the shoulder, he stepped on the brake. He was shocked that we survived.

Back to my mom. She seemed a little faint and couldn’t answer questions very well, but she indicated the pain was subsiding. She was taken to the ER and later I learned that the blood was actually just from a cut on her hand. There was an initial fear of internal bleeding, but the CT scan showed her internal organs were okay. She does have a fractured shoulder, though, and bruised internal organs. The hospital kept her overnight but she is now at home recovering.

In the above picture you can see our red cooler in the median. Apparently it flew out while we rolled, along with other things. Almost all the van windows shattered and even our big harp was part way out the window. We do not have an explanation for how my mom, Sarah, and I (who were not wearing seat belts) did not also fly out the window, except for the Lord’s protecting hand. My mom was right next to the cooler, and she was even leaning against the window when we rolled.

Mom and Dad were very happy to be reunited, and we were all relieved Mom wasn’t worse. It is an unbearable thought to consider all the things that could have (and realistically speaking, should have) happened.

The hospital chaplain told us, “I’ve been working here for five years, and you are the first trauma accident where all the people have lived to tell about it.”

I questioned her, confused. I mean, we all know many survive car accidents. She explained that she only gets called for the serious accidents. And in situations like ours, we were the first family in five years that all survived.

As you can imagine, we were all pretty emotionally shaken. I remember sitting with Stephen in the waiting room, waiting to hear how Mom was.
“Did you think we were going to die?” I asked him.
“Yeah. I thought we were going to die,” he said, his eyes welling up with tears.
The next few days were filled with emotion for all of us. Two days later, my dad was preaching the sermon at church and took the first 15 minutes of his sermon to tell of our accident. It was hard for him to get through it.

Through all the grateful tears, we also have an increased compassion for those that do experience great loss in these kinds of accidents.

Here’s where the accident took place. We were coming from the other way. You can see the cable barrier and broken posts. That’s where we rolled.

Praise God the van structure held up well enough during the roll that the roof didn’t crunch in further.

Sarah’s neck was very sore, and the next day at the junk yard and Detective Stephen discovered a clue as to why her neck hurt so much.

She must have hit her head on the ceiling of the van as we rolled. This is a chunk of Sarah’s hair caught in the van ceiling! Thankfully, the soreness in her neck is already subsiding.

Now our harp…. it didn’t do so well!

As we took off the harp cover, this is what we found. We’re grateful it was insured, but even if it wasn’t, it hardly feels like it matters. We’re alive.

On Sunday afternoon I sat down at our kitchen table with my Bible. It fell open to Psalm 116. I looked down at the verses and read these words: “For You have rescued my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I shall walk before the LORD in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:8-9). The whole chapter was amazingly appropriate. (Amazing how no matter the disaster, there’s a Psalm that will fit. 🙂 )

Stephen showing my mom pictures of the van the next day in the hospital

Right after the accident when I realized my family was alive, I felt such thankfulness to God that it was hard to express. It was this feeling of, “What could I ever do for You, Lord, to thank you for this?!”

Yet, that Friday night rescue wasn’t the biggest deliverance that the Lord had accomplished for me. The much bigger gift was when He died on the cross to rescue me and my family not just from earthly death, but from eternal death in Hell.

“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all” – Isaac Watts

The Lord has provided for us in countless ways: A young couple who saw the accident happening (from the oncoming traffic side) stopped immediately and were a comfort to us – they also had their families praying for us. A friend, Craig Rollinger, who lived nearby came immediately to give Stephen a ride from the hospital to retrieve the harp from the towing yard. Our church family showered us with love and met all our needs.

We have yet one more reason to owe our lives to Jesus. And we are reminded that He is able to easily rescue from any danger until He says it’s time to come Home.

Sarah’s Birthday + John 1 + Isaiah 40

We had a nice family time at Kava House in Swisher this morning for Sarah’s birthday!

After some nice family discussion, my dad shared some insights from John 1 that he has been enjoying. I’ll try to restate his thoughts:

After John denied that he was the Messiah or Elijah, he explained who he was: the very one Isaiah 40:3 was talking about. That must have been amazing for his audience to hear. The man standing before them was the one about whom Isaiah prophesied! Wow. They were seeing prophecy being fulfilled before their eyes. However, what John the Baptist said NEXT made his previous statement pale in comparison. He said, “AMONG YOU STANDS ONE you do not know, even He who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:26).

Whoa! If the crowd listening was familiar with Isaiah 40 (and I’m guessing many were) they should have connected the dots, and realized that John the Baptist was talking about Jehovah, the I AM described in Isaiah 40. If they were understanding John the Baptist correctly, it should have registered in their minds that he was saying, “The Messiah is alive today in Israel! The One that ‘the voice calling in the wilderness’ from Isaiah 40:3 was called to introduce is here! He stands among you now!”

“It’s kind of like ‘Aslan is on the move,’” Stephen commented.

And if they remembered any of the amazing descriptions of this Coming One that Isaiah 40 gives they would have been even more in awe. Although John’s listeners didn’t catch on at that time to the implications of what he was saying, praise God WE can read John 1 and Isaiah 40 with understanding.

John the Baptist was a phenomenon that Israel hadn’t seen in 400 years. An angel announced his birth. His life’s work was prophesied. He was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb (Luke 1:15). Even Jesus spoke high compliments for him (Luke 7:28). Yet all of John the Baptist’s credentials merely elevate Jesus because John said he was not worthy to even untie the strap of Jesus’ sandal.

Anyway, there are few things better than a good Bible discussion with family at a coffee shop on a cold January morning.

Our Behind the Scenes Hero

Most people who order from our online store don’t know that almost everything is packed by our 91-year-old grandpa! Not only does he pack orders, he keeps the basement organized, duplicates CDs, meticulously proof-reads for us, picks up mail from our PO box, takes inventory, packs and unpacks for our conferences, and meets many other needs (including remembering to water our plants, since we always forget).

Even more than the practical help Grandpa provides, we appreciate his prayers. Actually, he prays diligently not only for all his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, but he prays for each individual at our church by name (while keeping up-to-date with the details of their lives). Right now he is also teaching four Bible studies. 🙂 He keeps a pretty busy schedule. I hope that when I am 91 I will be living the same kind of life. Also hoping that one day I will have read through the Bible 40+ times like he has!

I won’t go into detail about the quirky skills he maintains such as quoting the books of the Bible backwards, naming major US cities in order of population, his detailed knowledge of all the presidents and vice presidents, or his tips for remembering the ten plagues in Egypt, but if you know him you can ask him yourself.

Thanks Grandpa for your godly example in our lives!

“Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man? The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him” (Proverbs 20:6-7).

Dad Witnessing At Christmas Tree Farm

After my dad and I picked out and cut down our Christmas tree this afternoon, we began talking about how we should witness to the guy who was working there. We thought that a good strategy for getting into a conversation would be to ask what he thought the second coming of Jesus would be like.

After my dad tied the tree to the top of our vehicle, he remembered he never paid for the tree. 🙂

When he went to pay, he asked his question about the second coming and they ended up talking for 10 – 15 minutes. I joined part way through.

“How’d that conversation go?” I asked dad as we were pulling away.
“Great,” Dad said.
As he began to explain the story to me, I pulled out my camera and started recording, hoping it might spark some new idea for others who might get into discussion this Christmas.

Dad Shares About Witnessing to Christmas Tree Farm Workers from Grace on Vimeo.

Stephen’s Finish Line

A few weeks ago, my brother Stephen ran in a marathon. Our family drove to Des Moines to watch and cheer. By using a tracking app, we could see how many miles Stephen had run so far and where he currently was on the route. This techy tool enabled us to drive to different spots along the 26-mile route and cheer for Stephen as he ran by.

There were many others watching and cheering. Some of the cheerers were more fun to watch than the runners.

Throughout the morning, when I had free minutes here and there, I was reading 1 Corinthians. Just before arriving at our last stop to cheer (the finish line!) I was reading these words … “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NKJV).

I was impressed with how fancy the finish line was.

Runners were finishing their race one by one and receiving their medal. The announcers shared details about the athletes as they crossed the line: “Runner 2553 is from Minnesota, and this is her 3rd race this year…”

It made me think about our heavenly finish line, where new people are arriving each day and being greeted. There must be such an awesome excitement in the air. New arrivals are doubtless eager to tell stories of God’s faithfulness to them on the journey. Cheering, warm-hearted saints in heaven (“the great cloud of witnesses” – Hebrews 12:1) are likely just as eager to hear their stories and praise God!

I have not even run a 5k race, so I can’t speak from experience about finish lines—but I can only imagine the agony that some of the athletes in Stephen’s race must have felt at about the 25-mile mark. Everything in them was focused on ONE thing: the finish line.

I thought, Imagine a finish line with JESUS there.

There is so much emotion contained in this thought! Talk about motivation! Not only is the pain over, not only is the goal reached, but you’re in the presence of Jesus—the One you’ve longed to see for so long.

Now, when Hebrews 12:1-2 discusses the race of life, the instruction it gives us is not to “run faster,” but rather to endure. We are supposed to run with endurance, looking unto Jesus. (He set the example for us by enduring the cross. No trial we encounter compares to His!)

So how do we endure? Glancing back through the previous chapter (Hebrews 11), we read stories of men and women throughout the ages who endured great trials, and the secret to their endurance is given: faith.

As you know, enduring trials is a normal part of the Christian life; in fact, it seems that the Lord often gives Christians extra trials because they are so good for us. I guess each trial is kind of like the Lord bringing us to the gym to build more faith muscles. Although trials are unpleasant, we need to view them as valuable; because if endured properly, they will ultimately enhance the joy of the finish line.

So to summarize, faith helps us to endure trials, and trials build our faith. The result is that our strengthened faith enables us to run better, be purified, and ultimately bring Jesus more glory and honor on that Day. There’s a reason James tells us to count it all joy when we face trials (James 1:2)! Peter also reminds us, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NKJV).

If trials are beneficial for the race, what are the things that are damaging? We’re told in Hebrews 12: the extra weights we accumulate, and the sin which clings so closely. It was about 40° F the day Stephen ran his marathon. The organizers of the race informed the runners in advance that if they wanted to wear a sweatshirt and throw it to the side sometime during the race, they’d collect them and donate them to a homeless shelter. A serious runner doesn’t want anything unnecessary—even a sweatshirt. It’s not worth it.

Stephen told us that at mile 25, with just one mile left to go and a hurting knee, he began to walk. But soon another runner approached him and said, “Hey, only three-quarters of a mile left. Let’s run to the end.” So the two of them ran the last section together. The kindness of this stranger provided the extra boost Stephen needed. In our heavenly race, we’re not running against each other, but with each other! Far from competition, part of “winning” is helping others win! What better way to do this than to remind them of the soon-coming finish line and to run beside them? “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another” (1 Peter 4:8).

Here’s a practical step of action. Pick one person in your life and pray some specific requests for them in the heavenly race:

• Pray that he or she will lay off weights that are a hindrance
• Pray that he or she will lay off the sin that clings so closely
• Pray that he or she will stop building with wood, hay, and stubble but be eternally minded.
• Share an encouraging word and point him or her to the finish line
“But exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13 NKJV).

“The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to hear as the learned” (Isaiah 50:4 NKJV).

Note: This article was sent out in our family newsletter this month. Along with our newsletter we also had a special for free shipping from our online store from now until Christmas. You can view the newsletter here. To sign up for our newsletter, you can send us an email and request to be added to our list.

Lunch Discussion with Grandpa

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Today my Grandpa (90 years old) took me out to lunch. I was asking him about who impacted his life the most. He said it was his uncle Arthur. Arthur really loved the Lord, thoroughly knew his Bible, and genuinely lived out the Christian life.
Among other friends, he also mentioned Jim Elliot, who he was friends with in college. My grandpa was explaining to me about the impact “brother Jim” made on all the students at Wheaton.

“Why do you think he made such an impact?” I asked.
“Because Jim had a real relationship with the Lord … and loved to talk about him,” my grandpa replied.

In every generation the Lord is raising up Jim Elliots and Uncle Arthurs. Some are more known, some less known. What really matters, when all is said and done, is that our relationship with Christ is real, vibrant, alive, and the best part of our lives. That kind of life will make an impact on others. However, our focus is not on “trying to make an impact,” but on loving Jesus with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind!

Ark Encounter Opening!

IMG_0626 Nickie and I, standing outside of the Ark Encounter after the official opening day (July 7th).

IMG_0629 On our way back home from helping with the Answers in Genesis outreach in Washington DC, my dad, Sarah, and I, together with Nickie and Haley, have been volunteering at the Ark Encounter for the past several days to help with the needs of opening. It has been a very exciting time and God is doing many things.

Saint Patrick’s Whirlwind

IMG_9672 Here was the group who came with us to the St Patrick parade to share with people about the history of Saint Patrick and the gospel. With the flurry of activity going on downtown, the afternoon feels a bit like a whirlwind. Praise God the gospel was part of the whirlwind.

IMG_9669 Patience and Adde — ready to get busy!

IMG_9695 These were my two helpers! They did fabulous.

IMG_9676 Hannah passing out tracts (Sometimes the dogs are even more interested in the tracts than the people, haha )

We praise God for the many good conversations He arranged. Nickie and Patience shared that one of the girls they talked with was so grateful she gave them a hug as they were leaving.

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Some people at the parade start acting extra animated because they’ve been drinking. My dad gets extra animated because he’s so excited about the gospel conversations he’s having 🙂 . He was running around giving tracts to everyone and then he had a couple sentences he’d explain with great enthusiasm…

IMG_9708 “… America needs a Patrick. God used Patrick to change Ireland by bringing them the gospel. That’s what we need in America. We need more Patrick’s!”

People would usually smile and agree. My dad told us later he talked at length to a total of eight individuals who were very serious about the gospel. Praise the Lord!

IMG_9710 Dad was also very tickled to discover that this man is an acquaintance of ours. He lives across the street from our church.

There are too many good things that happened to report them all. Praise God for the privilege He gives us of being His ambassadors.

Mom’s Accident on the Ice

“Mom just called,” Dad said in a worried voice, two days ago. “She fell on the ice in the back yard, and she can’t get up. She doesn’t sound good.”
We jumped in the van and raced home from our office.
I began imagining the worst case scenarios. What if she hit her head on the ledges of the stone steps?
Thankfully, Mom’s injury wasn’t a head injury, but a foot injury. It turned out to be only a sprained or broken ankle and mildly hurt knee. What a relief. It could have been so much worse.

IMG_9034 Our icy back yard

Here’s what happened: On Monday afternoon, Mom was carrying paint supplies through the yard, and she chose to walk through the snow instead of taking the stone path because usually the path is icy and the snow gives better traction. Usually. But not Monday! The snow was basically pure, hard ice. Mom found herself snowboarding down the hill–except without the board…and with her hands filled with paint supplies. The bushes at the bottom stopped her, and she hurt her foot on some bricks.

We’re praising God things didn’t turn out worse.

It’s been a nice change of pace for me to work from home and take care of her the past few days. The first day she didn’t have crutches, but I finally found a way to transport her to different rooms: my harp cart! Mom and I were both excited about how well it worked.

Her foot is still blue and swollen and we are still not sure if it is broken or sprained. She has a high pain tolerance and doesn’t complain much. We are grateful for God’s protection.

Today my dad called a good friend of ours, Dr. Bill Roberts, who is an orthopedic surgeon. He gave my dad some helpful medical advice, and then some spiritual advice. He said, “Here’s my prescription for Rebekah. It comes from Psalm 23. ‘He makes me to lie down in green pastures.'” Dr. Roberts explained that sometimes God MAKES us lie down, and when He makes you lie down—it’s green pastures. He reminded my dad that God is giving my mom a time of rest in His green pastures, so she should take advantage of it and enjoy this time of rest with the Lord.

Secondly, he mentioned that when Jesus was on the cross, He didn’t focus on the pain. Rather, He was concerned about others: The “daughters of Jerusalem” who followed Him weeping on the way to the cross, His mother, the soldiers crucifying Him, the people watching Him, the thief next to him… So when we experience pain, it is a reminder to follow His example and focus on others, praying for them.

Of course, my mom considers her foot injury to be minor compared to the pain so many others experience.

This phone conversation was a special encouragement to both of my parents. My dad mentioned how the fellowship we have among each other as Christians is such a blessing and so strengthening and encouraging in time of need.

Surprise Christmas Gifts

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Our good friend Arturo came over for Christmas breakfast and brought us all a gift. Can you guess what it is? Now I own my first Hawkeye item. 🙂

“So do you love the Hawkeyes, Arturo?” someone asked him.
“I love JESUS,” Arturo exclaimed.

No question there, Jesus is basically all Arturo talks about.

“Jesus loves us. Soooo much, too much,” he said, with a glow on his face.
Anyone who knows Arturo knows you only have to talk to him for about five minutes and he’s quoted you about five Scripture passages. Hard to believe he’s memorized so much Scripture since Jesus radically transformed his life five years ago. It is no stretch to say he is an example to all of us!