Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 20
Morning has broken like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing,
Praise for the morning,
Praise for them springing fresh from the world.
~ Morning Has Broken, lyrics by Eleanor Farjeon
From Blackbird Has Spoken: Part 19
Thomas survived brain surgery after receiving a gunshot wound through the head. The doctor says his case is quite miraculous. Due to the prayers of the saints there is great hope for a full recovery.
Chaplain Bob had seen and heard a lot over the years being Chaplain of a hospital, and a trauma hospital at that. He'd only seen two other cases of surviving a bullet to the head.
"So how was he able to get out of the restraints, do CPR on Murray, and run down to the highway?" Linda asked.
The doctor shook his head and looked at Linda and Chaplain Bob. "Mrs. Gimmler, there is no accounting for that. There is no way, and I mean no way with his injury, that was possible. I've seen some miraculous things from time to time and this is one such case. Some would say it's luck. Perhaps so, or maybe it was an act of God or the Spirit of the Universe, Karma, or whatever higher force you believe in. Another reason to be hopeful."
Bob smiled. "I say praise the Lord."
"Amen," said the Dr. Wong.
Dr. Whitcomb said, "Amen indeed."
Renewal of vows
Thomas woke in ICU. He turned his head to see Linda in a chair next to his bed peering down on him with great love and concern. He tried to reach out his hand to her through all the tubes and IVs. She took it and kissed it. A tear trickled down his cheek.
"Your back," he whispered.
"Yes, Thomas. I am back for good. I vowed at our wedding and vow to you now 'To have and to hold you, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health..."
Thomas finished "Until death do us part."
They both wept with joy.
Thomas' recovery was nothing short of miraculous. He was out of the hospital in a week and had only a brief, minimal rehabilitation through physical therapy. He resumed work a couple of weeks later, part time the first week. He was lucky, many said. But luck had nothing to do with it. Because of the prayers of the saints in Thomas' circle of friends, God directed that bullet at just the right trajectory and caused his body to heal so rapidly and miraculously. But most of all, God restored his marriage to Linda, and Linda and Murray both chose Christ.
"Hey Miracle Man," Bob said walking into Thomas' room on the med floor. "You're looking really good today."
Linda smiled and took Thomas' hand. "He does look good and the doctor said he can go home in a few days. He is still marveling at this miracle."
"I haven't looked in the mirror," said Thomas, "but I feel pretty darn good today. I could use a good Vente latte from Starbucks, or a hamburger from The Burger Barn Grill."
"Well okay then," Bob said, "I'll be here with a burger come dinner time."
"I'll bring you a tall, decaf latte in the morning," said Linda. Then things grew serious.
"So are you up to telling us what happened or is it too soon," Bob asked. "The police are just waiting for the word from the doctor to question you."
Linda was fiercely protective. "They'll have to get in the back of the line, Thomas needs his rest. But yes, honey, what happened?"
"Well, Murray showed up at the house furious at me for talking to police, and beating him up. I also think it was a huge hit to his ego that I got the better of him during the fight. He was not used to that. He took me at gunpoint and made me drive us to the abandoned control tower off highway seventeen. He zip tied my hands behind me when we got out of the car. While walking to the tower he was really short of breath. You know Murray, great athlete, so it was a little concerning. In the tower he zip tied my feet. I mentioned I was praying for you, Linda, and for him and he went into a rage, going on and on about his childhood. His father abused him terribly and his mother was too afraid to step in. He abused her too and eventually kicked her out and Murray never saw her again. It makes sense why he was the kind of man he was, so bitter, controlling and abusive himself.
"I tried to tell him how much God loved him, and he could heal those hurts and forgive him for all the sins he committed. But you know Murray, a hard man. He was rubbing his chest, short of breath, and his left arm hurt. I told him he needed a doctor. The symptoms would subside for a few minutes and he would continue his rant. He finally got so agitated with my attempts to lead him to the hope of Christ that he said, "Goodbye Thomas," and shot me. The force of the bullet snapped my head back and completely stunned me for a minute. I don't remember feeling pain at that point. My adrenaline was pumping and everything seemed surreal.
Then Murray clutched himself again and fell to the ground. I knew it was a heart attack so I started trying to get out of the zip tie on my wrists. I was surprised I got out, it actually wasn't that hard. I just happened to try something and it worked. I managed to get out of the feet restraints too.
"I ran to Him and held him in my arms. He said he wasn't going to die, that God had no power over him. I tried to use my cell phone but there was no reception to call nine-one-one. I felt so helpless. So I told Murray again that God loved him and begged him to say yes to Christ. That he'd already had a life of pain and sin and eternity with Christ was just a prayer away.
"Then I could tell the pain was crushing the life out of him. He looked up into my face and his expression went from anger to complete terror. He said my name. I begged him to believe. And barely audible he said "I believe." I told him to ask God in his mind and in his heart to ask for forgiveness. I'm sure I saw a slight nod from him, then he died, right there in my arms." Thomas choked up, but continued. "God gave me super human strength to perform CPR, but it didn't work.
"It was then I noticed blood all over Murray, the floor and me. And it hit me it was my blood. The pain started and I asked God to help me get to the highway so I could call nine one one, hoping the reception would be better there. I remember getting up on my feet and heading for the door but I don't remember anything after that until I woke up here after surgery.
"You made it to the highway, Thomas," Bob said.
"Yes," said Linda, "and someone saw you and called nine one one."
Thomas was spent. "I'm going to see Murray one day in heaven. He'll be healed of all the pain and bitterness, and he will know peace and joy that can only come from Christ. That is amazing grace."
The sanctuary of Believer's Fellowship was full of Cloe's friends from church, a few former co-workers, and her many friends at the hospital to celebrate her life. Her urn sat on a table near the podium surrounded by flowers. There rested another urn on the other side. Ivy had invited Thomas to include Murray in the service. She felt it just wasn't right for someone to go without a service of some sort. No one knew it contained Murray Stricklen's remains.
Pastor Roland Franks had to cancel last minute due to a family emergency so Chaplain Bob was asked by Ivy to stand in for him. He stepped up to the podium and opened with a greeting and prayer.Then a young church friend of Cloe's sang Great is Thy Faithfulness. Voices joined in to give glory to God for His faithfulness. Ivy then stepped up to the podium and began to speak.
"Thank you all for coming today. Our friend Cloe Ludlow is a survivor. I say 'is' because Cloe is more alive now than she ever has been before. She is not past tense in her existence. She survived all her trials here on earth through the love of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and God used many of you in her life. Though we sorrow at her sudden loss at such a young age, and we miss her, she is now in heaven in the presence of God. What a thrill it is to know we who are in Christ will see her again.
Cloe suffered much in her life and at times didn't think she could go on. We met in the midst of one of the greatest storms of our lives. There was an immediate connection. We spent a lot of time together in our season of crises and in moments of calm. I came to know a young, vulnerable woman of great compassion, kindness, and a tremendous sense of humor." Ivy chuckled. "One of the most amusing habits she had was to slap the table while screaming with laughter when something cracked her up. Her laugh was most infectious. She often did this when she was really hurting, or I was really hurting. Call it comic relief, I don't know, but it lightened a heavy load for me on those occasions.
"Cloe's hair, blonde and pink, the color of a sunrise. It was her personality. Soft and warm, cheery, daring, and smart. She was all of those things. She was also an encourager by nature, with her words and acts of love and kindness. She could also be very playful with a child like enthusiasm for simple things. She convinced my thirty four year old self one day that coloring like a seven year old was a perfectly normal and exciting activity for adults. When I balked, she wouldn't have it. She dragged me into the art room and we colored. It was a special moment of connection when I started singing a hymn my Nana and her Grammy sang to us. She was a gifted artist, blessing many with cards and gifts she made special for each individual. I see heads nodding. She was so generous. Cloe had a plan just before she left for heaven that she wanted to start an art therapy group.
"I only knew Cloe for a few months. But on the first day we met we both felt we'd known each other for a lifetime. And here is the most amazing thing that happened for Cloe in her last month here - she reclaimed and proclaimed a new revival in her soul. As God worked in her life, she overcame a lot and her faith soared. She was at the most peaceful and joyful state than at any other time in her life, and she told whomever would listen.
"This is a magnificent revelation of reality and truth - that suffering and adversity can bring a powerful, fresh understanding and experience of Christ's Sovereignty and love that restores and expands our faith, and prepares us for eternity. It gives glory to God. I'd like to end with this Scripture passage from 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
"This passage is one of comparison. Our afflictions, no matter how dark, heavy, and long they are here on earth, are light and momentary compared to the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory we will experience in heaven. Cloe's is no longer weighted down and oppressed; rather, she is now experiencing the exceeding, eternal weight of glory, the glory of our Savior. That gives us great hope. I know that hope is what Cloe would like all of you to have. Thank you again for coming to celebrate Cloe's life."
A surprise celebration
Chaplain Bob thanked Ivy and led a prayer of thanksgiving for Cloe's life, then he introduced Thomas to come up and share something from his heart. Much to everyone's surprise, he spoke of Murray Stricklen.
"I know most of you are wondering about the other urn. My friend Murray Stricklen's body resides there." There was a collective gasp by the people. "Murray was a hard man to love, or even to like. I won't go into all of his faults and deeds. We were friends for many years and I have a long list which could reach around the world and back, all for which I have been forgiven by our Savior. We are here to celebrate his life. I know your next questions may be, 'What is there to celebrate with such a life as his? And why is he being celebrated at Cloe's service of all people?' Here are some things to think about:
"First, Murray has been precious to and beloved by God since before the foundation of the world, as we all have been.
"Second, Jesus died for Murray while he was yet lost in his sin, just as He did for all of us. But I'll go further and say, Murray is just the kind of man Jesus is looking for for His Kingdom. And here is a spectacular announcement - Murray Stricklen is in heaven right now with Jesus, and with our friend, Cloe Ludlow.
"Human logic will tell us that's not likely because of reasons A, B, and C. But God does not use human logic; He works from unconditional love and grace, for He is love and grace. In his last moments Murray realized the weight of his sin and bitterness and called on the name of the Lord to be saved. My friends, there is no one out of the reach of God's love and forgiveness." Several amen's rang out.
Those who knew Thomas well marveled at his eloquence and knowledge of the Scriptures, the gospel, and the heart of God. He spoke as if he'd been doing it for years.
"Today I ask you to celebrate Murray's new life in Christ with me. His decision to call upon the name of the Lord, and make Him Savior and Lord in his last moments on this earth is exceedingly, abundantly beyond all we could ask or think. God calls us to be like Him - to love, forgive, and rejoice for sinners who come to Christ.
"One last thing, I want to thank Ivy Ledbetter for inviting and including Murray in this celebration of life. As Cloe is now in heaven, she knows Murray Stricklen as a beloved and redeemed brother in the Lord. Therefore it seems fitting that we include him in this service. We must also see Murray as our beloved, redeemed brother in the Lord. Why? Because God deems him as His beloved and redeemed child, cleansed by the blood of His own Dear Son. What a glorious Savior we have." He pointed to heaven. "Glory to God."
Much to Thomas' surprise the people came to their feet with loud and long applause, giving glory to God for Murray's salvation, and God's great grace that He extends to all who call upon His name to be saved.
Chaplain Bob began. "I read to you, John 3:16-17 -
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Chaplain Bob, unplanned, gave an invitation to anyone there to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved, the same choice Murray Stricklen had, and Thomas and Linda, Dr. Wong and Shihong, Ivy and Cloe, Chaplain Bob and many others in the sanctuary. Heaven's angels were rejoicing for the many sinners that came to repentance that afternoon. Chaplain Bob invited everyone to stand and sing the closing hymn. With arms raised high all around the sanctuary they sang with all their hearts.
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace
© 2017 Lori Colbo