The Black Portal

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.     Ephesians 6:12

Let’s call this one…The Black Portal.

Duh, duh, duuuuuuhhhh!

True story.   This took place in a very remote area of northern Michigan.   The nearest town I can recall is Interlochen, maybe an hour away.   My best friend from high school went to the arts academy there.  It’s a very prestigious boarding school that attracts students from around the world.

My friend’s dad was the engineering VP at a GM transmission plant, and one of his suppliers owned a huge log cabin, which is where my friend and I walked through The Black Portal.  It was about a quarter to half mile from a two-lane state route.  The “driveway” was simply a dirt road to the cabin, which continued past the cabin to a stocked lake for fishing.  His dad could check with his sales rep on availability.  If no one else had signed up for it on a given range of dates, he’d get it.  We stayed there a couple times to visit my friend and at least once more around October of ’79 just after I finished my apprenticeship at The Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Cleveland, OH.  It was this visit where he and I encountered the Portal.

The cabin was huge.  I remember it was my friend, his dad, and two of his sisters.  We were there for a long weekend just for fun.  The living room was two stories.  Any of us could almost walk into the fireplace without ducking.  The site manager had made sure there was plenty of firewood for us, so we had it going most of the time.

The basement has a small walk-in refrigerator, fully stocked, and a small walk-in freezer which boasted cases of steaks and other meats.  There was so much food and firewood there that we could have been snowed in all winter and come out in the spring fatter than we went in!

My friend – let’s call him Joe – and I decided one afternoon to walk out past the back yard to see how far we could go and what we might find.  There was a neglected orchard at one point and a rusted barb wire fence.  After about a mile we came to an old, one lane dirt road just big enough for a car.  We figured it was a seldom-used fire road.  There was not even the slightest indication of a track.  Beyond that was just wilderness – trees and brush.  We decided to head back.

One evening after dark we went for a walk along the dirt road to the lake, which was further past the cabin, deeper into the property.   We hoped to see some stars with no light pollution from a city.  I don’t remember the stars.  Maybe there were stars, but what was about to happen crowds out anything else about that walk.  I can tell you that there was enough light that we could see each other easily enough.

Then it happened like walking through a doorway.  We could see nothing.  Period.  I remember holding my hand in front of my face and not being able to see it in the least.  At first it was intriguing, but we both quickly realized we might be in trouble.  We could not see each other or the road.  We both got disoriented as to which way was to the lake, the cabin, or the sides of the road.  There was a real danger of walking off the road and either tripping or losing our way altogether.  We could hear each other, and that was it!

I started slowly pivoting in place, hoping that something would appear to give me some bearing on a way back.  As I turned, it so happened that I saw car lights for a second on the state route in the distance as it passed our dirt road.  I froze in place, not wanting to lose that direction.  I called to Joe to follow my voice.  I knew which way to go!

It was only a few steps in that direction that took us again through a seeming doorway to where we had normal, nighttime light.  We made our way back to the cabin and its welcoming fireplace.

I didn’t assign anything mystical to that experience at the time, but it was strange enough to stay with me all these years.   I can’t even say now whether it was a supernatural event.

I’ve come to believe what the American Indians have known for years; there are things that go bump in the night.  There are supernatural things that favor the dark especially.  Stories of Bigfoot abound all over the world.  There are hundreds of strange disappearances in remote places of our national parks.  Check out the Missing 411 materials both on books and videos.

I also believe that North American Indians are more knowledgeable of God than most expect.  See my article North American Indians and God.

To the point of the verse from Ephesians above, God is not the only being that works in our lives.  There are indeed principalities and powers whose only purpose is to hurt God by hurting us, His beloved children.  It behooves us all to not only know our God but to know our enemy too!

I’m not saying that I think Joe and I had a supernatural experience, but it was strange in that there were no tall trees anywhere near us to cast such a profound shadow, not even being able to see the road behind us.  All I know for certain is that it remains the strangest thing that has ever happened to me!

Inflation on Gas Prices

The New York Post reported today on President Bidens speech today.  Biden praised high gas prices saying “[When] it comes to the gas prices, we’re going through an incredible transition that is taking place that, God willing, when it’s over, we’ll be stronger and the world will be stronger and less reliant on fossil fuels when this is over.”

Also, from NYP:

The president then insisted that his administration’s actions, rather than increasing the price of gas, had actually been able to “keep it from getting worse — and it’s bad.”

Now hold on there a second, Sparky!  I have two problems, and first is his flip-flop on prices.  First, high gas prices are a good thing, an incredible transition.  Second, he tries to look the hero for keeping the, down.

The main problem I have is that transition thing.  To what are we going to transition?  100% electric cars?  I’ve got some news for everyone who think they’re helping the world by getting an electric car.

First, you’ve only moved the carbon emissions from your tailpipe to the nearest smokestack.  Electricity comes largely from carbon fuels.  Windmills are highly inefficient.  The only reason they seem to be financially viable to end users is that the government subsidizes them.  Without that, PFFFT!  Solar panels are nice on homes, but they too are not enough to completely replace carbon-based power plants.  The only truly viable alternative is hydroelectric power, but not everyone has a Niagara Falls in the neighborhood.

Second are those marvelous lithium batteries.  Some of the largest lithium deposits are in Africa where most everyone buys it.  Unfortunately, those mines are worked by forced child labor.

From my Christian perspective, I don’t think God approves of that child labor.  I also wonder about where those depleted lithium batteries go.  I Googled for information on lithium batteries.  Here is what I found:

The latest research by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates 40,000 children are working in DRC mines. British Sky News also investigated the Katanga mines and found children, aged eight, and four.

Most lithium-ion batteries that are recycled today go through a process called “shredding”, where the battery is shredded up into very small pieces. After shredding, this so-called “black mass” is processed to extract valuable metals like cobalt and nickel.

The entire lithium extraction process contributes to an increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Lithium miners cut down trees and remove all other life forms from their targeted mining areas to eliminate obstructions.

(Kinda like fossil fuels, yes?)

Lithium mining is a source of pollution and can have negative environmental impacts. However, there is no reason to think it will have a worse impact than the ongoing one caused by pumping oil out of the deep soil, by refining it and by transporting it to petrol stations all around the globe (by boat and car).

Well…at least it won’ be any worse than drilling for oil!

That seems to be what Biden thinks, anyway!

The Father

And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”  40 But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”    Luke 19:39-40

I spoke to our unborn first child every night before my wife and I went to sleep.  Every night I said the same thing.

“Hello.  This is your daddy.  I hope you’re doing well in there.  We can’t wat to finally meet you and see who you are.”

My wife finally went into labor, but things weren’t going too well.  She had to have an emergency Cesarean.  It went well for both mother and child.  I went to the nursery shortly after to see my new daughter.  She was wrapped in blankets with a cute, little stocking cap on her head.  She was fussing, so I leaned close to her and started talking to her.  Her fussing stopped, and she cocked her head listening.  She then relaxed and fell asleep, secure having heard my voice.

She had a dad-shaped “hole” in her life, which was filled when she heard my voice.  It calmed her…put her at peace.

Sadly, too many people have a God-shaped “hole” in their lives, their souls waiting to be filled.  They try to fill it with drugs, sex, and whatever else they can find.  With any mention of God banned from schools, with generations not attending churches, because most do not boldly preach God’s word, they don’t know where to find God.

And yet His voice is present.  Jesus said that if His disciples fail to preach, even the stones would cry out!

And they do!  Think about how all the geologic layers are identical all over the world.  No matter where, each geologic layer can be identified by its contents.  That would not be possible if not all formed at the same time during some global event – like Noah’s flood!

Think about how complex life really is.  Even the smallest cells in our bodies are incredibly complex.  That shear complexity screams intelligent design, God’s voice calling to our souls!

Let’s talk about our eyes.  Evolutionists say they and everything else happened by chance.  Some accidental proto-eyeball thing occurred in one animal – one – and eventually and became eyes.  But what about the optic nerve that sends the eye signal to the brain as well as the region in the brain that’s devoted to sight?  How is it that all three structures could accidently develop independently and connect?  That single system is so complex only intelligent design can account for it!

God’s voice is speaking to us through the rocks and through every living thing on earth.  He is the only, perfectly shaped entity that will fill the God-shaped hole in all our lives!  His voice is in the Bible and everything around us.  Listen!

Parenting

Bring up a child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it.

My favorite blogger, Caralyn Collar, a.k.a BeautyBeyondBones, was recently engaged.  She and her fiancé are looking forward to their wedding and then starting a family.  We’ve messaged each other a few times this week about parenting.  The biggest part of it is modeling good behavior to and around your children.

I’ve seen too many parents treat their kids more like annoying pets than their own flesh and blood.  Children should not be drug along like unwelcome baggage or shunted out of the way.  Let me give you some examples.

Our first daughter was a mere toddler when she started trying to be part of the “team.”  For example, she wanted to help doing the dishes after dinner.  I’d wash and dry while she stood on the counter by the cabinet with mom spotting her.  I’d hand her a dry dish, and she learned to put it in the right place.  It was something she clearly liked doing.  Sure…I could have finished that chore quicker without her help, but it was important to include her!

After my father died, my mom had to downsize from a huge, five-bedroom bungalow to something less expensive to maintain.  Cleaning it out was a lot of work, especially when we decided to rip out all the gold carpeting to show the wood floor beneath.  We dragged yard after yard out to the alley to be picked up over many hot summer days.  Once again, our daughter, still a toddler, wanted to help.

She wasn’t content with small scraps.  She went after the bigger pieces and struggled them to the alley as we guided and helped her just a bit.  She wasn’t a big help, obviously.  But we let her be part of the team!

It wasn’t all work.  My wife and I put a lot of effort into play too.  I’d be the “monster” under a big blanket on the living room floor.  The girls would try to sneak by without getting grabbed and yet hoping that they would!

Julie played dress up with them and show them…novel…ways to play with their Barbies.  They’d tie strings to them and have them “rappel” over the staircase railing on some adventure!  They eventually realized they could play that game from the second floor down the laundry chute to the basement.!

Almost every day I’d take them on a short bike ride in the morning before I took them to grandma’s and went to work.  Weekends we took longer rides, miles long.

We had the biggest house in the family and so usually hosted Thanksgiving and other holiday feasts.  We never had a kids’ table.  We figured the best way for them to learn what being an adult meant was to let them eat and interact with everyone at the same table.  They learned conversation and to ask questions.

The biggest things in parenting are inclusion and modeling the behavior you want them to grow into.  Your kids aren’t annoying pets unless you make them so.  They are God’s blessing upon your union, your marriage!

My Miracles

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers;  1 Peter 3:12

God gave me two miracles to come back from my Covid Pneumonia.  First is my wife who came every day and stayed with me throughout all visitor hours.  I was comatose all of January, but she would talk to me and massage my arms and legs.  She queried the doctors on my care with the help of her RN sister and a few other nursing friends.  She stood up for me when she and her friends told her that I need X when the doctor was wanting Y.  They were right every time!

She did this along with holding down a full-time job and making the house ready for my return.  She rearranged furniture to make it easier for me to get around the house.  All of it on her own!  I see her as my hero who sacrificed pieces of her self on this battlefield for my sake.  Her tenaciousness to protect and care for me was heroic and it cost her a lot.

So, she is my first miracle, a gift from God to be my wife and, recently, my protector.

The second miracle that unfolded was this.  She stepped out of the ICU one day for a short break to gather herself.  She was in the hall by the chapel when the hospital chaplain happened by.  He stopped and asked her why she was there.  She told him about me.  He asked her if she is a woman of faith.  She said yes.  Would she like him to pray with her?  Again, she said yes, and they prayed in the chapel.

The next morning my lungs were clear. Tests showed no scar tissue. They were as good as new!

Does prayer work?  I had my pastors and church family praying as well as people from work, some whom I hadn’t seen or talked to in years.  Perhaps the chaplain’s prayer with my wife put it over the edge.  All I know is that the great majority of people who are put on a ventilator don’t survive.  Yet, here I am, telling you my story!  All I can do is give glory to God for that miracle

God does not always say “yes”.  I’m just grateful He said it this time!

Casting Pearls…

“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”    Matthew 7:6

I seldom get combative comments here.  That happened last weekend.  Someone took umbrage at my article October 2020, Abortion Ritual.  It was a report on how the Satanic Temple has come up with an abortion ritual.  From the Satanic Temple website:

The Satanic abortion ritual provides spiritual comfort and affirms bodily autonomy, self-worth, and freedom from coercive forces with the affirmation of TST’s Seven Tenets. The ritual is not intended to convince a person to have an abortion. Instead, it sanctifies (?!?) the abortion process by instilling confidence and protecting bodily rights when undergoing the safe and scientific procedure.

Yes, more weasel words and wiggle room.  I wrote about the basics of the abortion ritual from the Satanic Temple’s own site and how nice sounding words hid what is actually not so nice.  At least not for the unborn child.

The “someone” asked what makes me the final arbiter of what others think, called me a hypocrite to the nth degree, and had some tortured logic that we celebrate birthdays instead of conception days, proving that human life begins at birth, not conception.  He then elaborated on my conception day, the day my father screwed my mother and how his sperm fertilized her egg.

Um…

My logical mind thought of all the ways I could refute his rude comments.  I then realized that his attack and name-calling showed him to be someone who cannot be argued with.  He might think he’s logical and reasonable, but his tone and comments showed him otherwise.

I was reminded of a saying I read long ago that still serves well.  Never argue with an idiot; people won’t be able to tell you apart.  That’s not me name-calling so much as trying to point out that some people simply cannot be reasoned with.  What would you call them?

I deleted his comment.  He can, of course, have his opinions and express them…on his site.  Anyone visiting at my site is just that, a visitor.  Like a guest in my home, I expect civility from visitors.  Civil disagreements are how we sharpen personal understanding.  Name calling and crude references do nothing to enlighten.

This discussion will hopefully give other readers who also blog an option on how to deal with trolls who visit…especially Christian bloggers.  I have two fellow bloggers – friends, really – who have had problems with trolls, and have discussed how to deal with them.

Jesus’ had the best advice; don’t cast your pearls before swine.  Some people just won’t hear you.  Furthermore, just like feral swine, they will try to tear you apart and eat you.

Jesus echoed this same principle when sending out His disciples into the surrounding villages:

 If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!    Matthew 10:13-15

Jesus also practiced what He preached in dealing with the Pharisees.  They did not accept Him, and He treated them accordingly.  Those Jews who at least tried to understand, like Joseph of Arimathea, were welcomed and taught.  In fact, it was that same Joseph who provided the tomb for Jesus in between His crucifixion and resurrection.

Some dissenters can be reasoned with.  Some cannot.

If you’re a blogger who attracts trolls from time to time, consider how you’d deal with someone who came into your house and took a dump in your living room.  Do you let them stay on or spend your limited time with those whom you can talk civilly?

Being Careful – A Jeff Tale

And the statutes, the ordinances, the law, and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall be careful to observe forever; you shall not fear other gods.    2 Kings 17:37

I had a good friend in high school who became more of a brother.  Both his parents died just a few years apart, and my parents agreed to let him live with us.

Steve was a big guy.  When he walked into a room people noticed.  He was a teddy bear, but someone that big can be intimidating.

He had a few different jobs after high school.  Eventually signed up with the army and ended up in Army Intelligence.  He had a top-secret security clearance and was stationed in Seoul, South Korea.  While there he took up a martial art called shim do, a weaponless form like karate.  Not that someone his size needed it, but he enjoyed it.  He even got his black belt while there.

When he got out and returned home, he would ask me to spar with him.  It was just tapping; no real contact.  I have no training at all, and I asked him why.  He said it was good practice to face an idiot who could do just about any crazy thing, be totally unpredictable.

I didn’t take it personally.

Each go lasted a second or two as he “killed” me over and over.  But there were just a couple times that I managed to tag him.

“JK,” he said, “there’s your lesson.  You’re no fighter but you got through to me, a black belt.  No matter how good you are, you can never be sure you’re not standing in front of the person who is going to dust you off.  Be careful who you screw with, JK.”

Unless you count a few muggings in high school, I’ve never been in a real fight.  Ever.  I took Steve’s lesson to heart.  Whatever happens, I have to ask myself if it’s worth screwing with someone I don’t know.

That’s the message God was getting across in 2 Kings above.  Be careful.  Follow the rules.  Don’t screw with gods you don’t know.  That’s right!  There are other gods!  Those are the fallen Watchers described in Genesis 6 and detailed in the Book of Enoch.  I’m convinced that the ancient Greek gods were not myths, but real.  If you compare them to Enoch’s list of Watchers and what they taught mankind, it seems eerily like the Greek gods.

What are ways that we can be gradually – or quickly – drawn into screwing with other gods?  Ouija boards are an obvious avenue.  People start talking to the board and they sometimes end up communicating with something more than a toy!

I used to watch ghost hunter shows until I realized that I was becoming too familiar with how those things work.  I stopped watching them when I realized just how foolish those people are for screwing with forces beyond their reach!  There were episodes about people who became fascinated by voices responding to them through tape recorders.  They ended up inadvertently “inviting” something into their lives that caused no end of troubles.

Let’s listen to what God had to say in today’s passage from 2 Kings above.  Follow the rules and be careful who you screw with.

Walking with God

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?    Micah 6:8

St. Paul exhorted us to pray without ceasing.  The modern expression is “God is my co-pilot.”  One way or another, walking with God is priority #1.  The problem is that this is very hard to put into practice.

I made a conscious effort this week to make a change in that direction.  I travel almost weekly for work, sometimes over 1000 miles.  I normally listen to my different Pandora stations to pass the time.  This past week I kept the car silent on my outbound leg.  I resolved to keep quiet and spend time chatting with God.

Yes, chatting.  I know that God is always here with us at every moment.  It’s such a shame that we ignore Him most of the time.  This week I decided to talk to Him as if He was riding shotgun in my car.  I told Him about the things I was grateful for.  I asked Him for things for myself and others; sometimes things, sometimes success, sometimes comfort.  I expressed my desire to not worry about the future since He’s already there…and asked Him for faith to help me with that, since I do such a lousy job on my own!

When I rounded a curve and was met with a nice view, I thanked Him for creating a world so beautiful that even sin could not fully destroy the grandeur of it all.  Saw an ambulance screaming toward an emergency?  Prayed for the victim and skill of the responders.

Five hours.  Of course, there were also other slices of time my mind wandered to who knows what.  But I kept trying to redirect myself back to paying attention to my Passenger.

I usually pray off and on when driving with the music blaring, but this week I decided to try to do better.  By the way, I did play my music all the way home.

Did I mention I’m not perfect?

I still prayed here and there.

That’s the challenge isn’t it?  We say and believe that God is our co-pilot.  We intend to act that way.  The truth is that what is immediate to our senses always manages to crowd out what can only be perceived by faith!  It takes effort!

That is why St. Paul often writes about running the good race and persevering to the end that we might win the prize!  You don’t reach the finish line without putting in great effort to hold to your lane, stay with your faith, and run the whole race.

So.  Who’s riding shotgun with you this week?

The Dash

Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”:  While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the rain;
In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men bow down;…
Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well.  Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.  “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “All is vanity.”… 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.  14 For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.    Ecclesiastes 12, selected verses

If you read yesterday’s article, you know my sister died this past week.  It’s been a bit tougher than I thought it would be for all the reasons I listed yesterday.  I re-read it today, and something struck me.  Writing a basic summary of her life was a whole lot easier than her living it.  She was an addict and lived very close to death for years.

It reminded me of something I heard when I was young.  Maybe you’ve heard it too.  It’s about the dash on the tombstone.  Here lies Paula, 1964-2021.  The dash was chiseled into the stone easily enough.  Getting through it was a whole other thing.

Isn’t that true for us all?  Figuratively speaking, your tombstone and mine have a starting year and a dash that grows in microns as we live and bring it to completion.  The dash is filled with warmed hearts and broken ones; triumph, tragedy, and indifference.

You and I only ever see the dash.  God sees everything that made it.  At some point He’s going to want to talk with us about every bit of it.

Solomon is warning us about that in Ecclesiastes.  He’s admonishing us to get tight with God while young and it’s easier.  If we wait until we’re old, we might never get there.  Build the foundation of that relationship before you’re too worn down to start on it.  Don’t let the vanities, the foolishness of the world blind you to what really needs to be done.  Those crazy things will vanish, leaving you with a moon and stars that give no light.  Build your life on God before the days on earth make you too weary to find pleasure in them.  Live a life, start to finish, that clings to God for satisfaction and pleasure.

Make your dash count for something more than just having been here.

How do we do that?  Fear God and keep His commandments.  What does that look like?

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’    Matthew 22:37

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.    James 1:27

My sister did none of this.  Hers was a life of sorrows, bad mental health and a crack addiction.  It was at times living on the streets with her small kids.  But given all that, I know she was back in Jesus’ fold at the end.  Despite a life not unspotted from the world, she was still washed clean in Jesus’ blood.

When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”  26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”    Matthew 19:25-26

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.    Ephesians 2:8-9

So…the dash.  How’s yours looking so far?  Long or short?  Something to be OK with or something you’ll have to answer for?  A lot.  For the good times, Jesus will say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

For the bad times that will be brought to judgement, Jesus will take the punishment and wash you clean of every spot with His most loving blood.  All it takes is saying “Yes” to Him while the dash is still alive!

Death Comes

The end of a thing is better than its beginning.    Ecclesiastes 7:8

I don’t normally write about personal tragedy, but today I will.  Part of me wants the release.  Part of me hopes that someone will learn something from it. Honestly, I’m not sure which part is bigger.

My sister died Friday morning.  Truth be told, she died Thursday, but she was comatose and on a ventilator since then.  Her husband called me Friday morning to say that they decided it was time to turn it off.  Her organs were failing, and there was no hope.

But let’s back up for a moment.  For one thing, you might wonder at my choice if Bible verse.  I’ll explain, but it’s going to take a little bit.

One of my nephews from my other sister called me Thursday morning at 5:00.  When I looked at my phone and saw his name, I figured it had to be bad news.  He told me that she had had open heart surgery several days prior.  After an initial good recovery, she began to have internal bleeding.  Things didn’t look good, because she was too weak for them to operate again.

I asked him where she was.  I wasn’t asking what hospital, although that eventually came.  No, I wondered where in the country she was.  Was she still in Las Vegas?  He didn’t know where she was after she left Vegas years ago.  He said he would try to find out and get back to me.  All he knew was that her husband had contacted his mom, my other sister, with the news.

Paula had a shit life.  No two ways about it.  It started with bad genes, a hyper thyroid, and the attending mental health issues that go along with it.  She married right out of high school.  Her husband joined the Navy but was later dishonorably discharged for drug use.  He got Paula hooked when he came back.  After having three kids together, they divorced, and he moved on.  Paula was addicted to crack cocaine.  Some of the stories she told me after she got clean chilled me to the bone.

The worst was when her supplier threatened to shoot her over missing money.  She grabbed his hand and pulled the gun to her head and screamed at him to go ahead.  Her son was there.

I tried to help her when I could, but she would invariably piss away whatever I tried to do for her and disappear for years at a time.  I wasn’t mad at her so much as frustrated.  For what little detail I know of her life, she made very few good decisions and never learned from the bad ones.

As odd as it might sound, I am grieving for someone I barely knew as an adult.  I have some fond childhood memories, but even by high school she kept getting herself into tight spots.

The question I ask myself as why I’m crying over someone I haven’t seen or heard from in over ten years.  I’m not crying for having now lost her.  I’m crying for the normal relationship we never had.  I’m crying for decades of her pain.  I’m crying because no matter how futile the hope of having a normal sibling relationship with her was, it was still alive as long as she was alive.

That door closed Friday morning.

The end of a thing is better than it’s beginning.  Her pain is ended.  Her troubles have ended.  It’s better now.

Your obvious question is what makes me think a former crackhead who left family for years on end can end up in heaven.  My nephew told me that he knew his mom and Paula spoke about God a few times last few years.  She “came home” to Jesus.  She fell asleep in her body and awoke in Jesus’ loving arms.

What’s especially comforting about this is a conversation I had last year with someone who died, met Jesus and came back.  You can read my article Perfect Love for some detail, but here’s the gist of it.

Jason met Jesus in heaven surrounded by angels he described as being huge and indescribably powerful.  He felt Jesus’ power also.  I asked him if he wasn’t even a bit nervous about being in the presence of the Son of God.  He smiled and said no.  Jesus’ love emanated from Him like a physical force.  The power and intensity of Jesus’ love made everything else pale in comparison.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.    1 John 4:18

That’s where my sister is now.  She’s with Jesus and feeling His love that casts out everything else.  She is in a place where God promised to wipe away every tear.

I’m not going to the funeral.  The family situation is…well, it’s ugly.  It’s better if I stay away.  We were, after all, the poster family for dysfunction.  There’s nothing to be gained by playing the entire soap opera here.

However, writing this has helped me work through my emotions.  I hope it’s given you some sort of perspective if you’re dealing with a death now.  If you’re not dealing with a death right now, trust me – you will.  Just please remember that you can try to do the right thing and get punished for it.  You can’t make other people behave.

You can pray for them, try to help, be understanding, and, in the end, take comfort that God will take care of things.