Early homeschool advocates Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore once noted that homeschooling is not for the fainthearted. That, my friend, was an understatement.
It is a demanding job that will test a parent’s strength and patience to the very limits. Probably beyond. Any commitment runs on determination and not on feelings. Most married couples lose that initial first electrical attraction as their love moves to a more mature stage. Many times in marriage a couple has to work hard to keep their relationship vital and alive. That same hard work is needed in developing our relationships with our children and in training them for godliness.
Particularly if a child is older and been in a different schooling atmosphere, a parent may have to deal with some serious attitude problems. It will likely also bring to the surface any relationship issues that already exist in the family. An honest parent will admit so some disturbing attitudes of his/her own to battle. Many days, especially at first, a parent may spend most of the time each day working through personality conflicts. This is exactly what we should be doing. Forget the math quiz. In it’s proper role, rote learning is important, but secondary, to character-building.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.
A man who lives without honor will not gain by education. If we have to spend a whole morning working through a bout of sibling rivalry or teaching our children that they can’t manipulate us, the time is well-spent.
It will help if the child learns from the start that the parent won’t allow study time to become a power struggle. The grown-up should be the grown-up in the room. Exert gentle but firm authority. The child has to learn to complete a task, even a distasteful one. This is the only way he will develop respect for others and the patience that the real world is going to demand. We should just make sure that the task isn’t so far beyond his abilities to the point that he becomes frustrated.
If he is still very young and unable to concentrate long enough to complete the work given him, he may not be ready for the intensity of study that the parent is attempting. At this point, a wise parent will back away from pushing him and resort to more informal activities. With practice, it isn’t hard to tell the difference between a child who is a complainer and one who is truly frustrated.
A good name is to be more desired than great wealth ~Psalms 22:1 (NASB)
It’s Sunday afternoon, and our son’s dog is dancing in the kitchen because two of her favorite people are rolling up to our door. It takes a bit for them to get out of the car and up the sidewalk. Jim Soyk Sr. hunches over his walker as he concentrates on keeping up with his feet. His wife Juanita directs him from behind while with a firm grasp. Two halves of a dynamic duo have just entered our house, and our world has come alive.
Jim grew up in abject poverty in Wisconsin, the second son of a drunken carpenter and his sweet wife. His father both abused and neglected the family, and Jim grew up long before his time. As a child, he worked to support his mom and sisters while his dad cavorted around the community bars. As a young man, he defended his mother from his father. In school, he learned to fight the bullies that mocked his ragged clothes.
His father taught him to be tough. His mother taught him to be gentle.
But the hunger and the hardships and the rags he wore would not define this boy as he grew to manhood. Although he had every reason in the world to be a thug, James Neil Soyk, Sr. grew to be a gentle giant. Early in life he displayed a keen intellect and a deep interest in electronics. He escaped the harsh life of Wisconsin by enlisting in the Navy and earning an engineer’s license. While in the Navy he met and married a beautiful Southern girl named Opal. Together they had two children, Pam and Jim Soyk, Jr.
After the Navy, Jim pursued a career in broadcasting, a choice that resulted in a nomadic lifestyle during the early years for the family. When they discovered the Lewis-Clark Valley, though, they felt that they had finally found “home.” Here Jim quickly became a public figure. His ease before audiences and quick wit earned him many appearances. He was a popular emcee at events and as a disc jockey for a local radio station. He was especially beloved as the character “Auntie Maude,” the cantankerous elderly “lady” that dispensed her wisdom to audiences in local venues.
Life would deal him more harsh blows.
He nearly died in a car accident in 1967. As the airwaves were alive with news of a six-day-war in Israel, Jim fought for his life in the hospital. He finally returned home, thin and pallid from his injuries and the hepatitis he contracted from the blood transfusions he received. With his customary humor, he told people he was the only person he knew who had a gall bladder removed by a Rambler.
Jim became a believer in the Lord Jesus in the mid-1970’s, radically changing the course of his life. He began to understand the Father he had never known, the one who had preserved him through his dad’s beatings, through the starving times, and through a devastating car accident. This knowledge would empower him to extend grace and forgiveness to his earthly father. It would also bring his entire family to a saving knowledge of Christ.
Then, in 1989, Opal suffered a series of strokes. Jim became her caregiver until it was physically impossible to keep her at home. In 1994, she joined her Lord.
Then along came “Janey.”
This lovely and vivacious lady suffered much loss of her own before meeting Jim. She was the eleventh child of thirteen in her family. Her father died when she was six years old, and the younger children were raised by her mother and her second oldest brother.
Her mother cleaned rooms, took in laundry, and sold her homemade tortillas to make ends meet. One of Juanita’s brothers worked at the nearby airport before he went to school to earn some money.
Tragedy struck her life once again during a rafting trip with friends on the Snake River. The raft unexpectedly got caught in an eddy, dumping Juanita and a friend into the water. Juanita nearly drowned but made it out. Her friend died.
Later, her first marriage ended in a painful divorce. Forced to start a new and unplanned life on her own, she earned her general equivalency diploma, her certificate as a nursing assistant, and an associate’s degree in medical terminology.
Separately, Jim and Juanita had learned to conquer adversity. Together, they would find new strength and a new calling.
They were married on Christmas Day in 1994, blending two lives and two families. They served in local politics, Jim as county commissioner and Juanita as election judge and head of the Republican ladies’ committee.
A New Calling
In 2002, they answered the call to open the doors of a church that had long been closed. The Leland Methodist Church had once housed a vibrant membership, but when Leland died as a town, the church had finally been forced to close its doors. It had been silent for about thirty years when Jim and Juanita took on the arduous task of cleaning it up and building a new congregation.
The church’s exterior siding was faded, and its exquisite stained glass windows sagged in places, but in September of 2002, one hundred people crowded its sanctuary to celebrate the opening of Leland Pioneer Community Church. Once again the sound of praise filled the air as the gentle giant stood in the pulpit and wept with joy.
For fifteen years, Jim and Juanita served their Leland neighbors, their families, and the surrounding communities with generosity, laughter, and plenty of Juanita’s special salsa. Their loyalty to those they love has been as inspiring as their determination. It was often a lonely journey as they soldiered on through personal heartache and physical ailments. They kept the church doors open through lean times and good times, and only stepped down when Jim’s health became too fragile to continue on.
The church has been sold, but the doors remain open, a testament to the witness the Soyks have left behind. Jim and Juanita have moved to Lewiston to be closer to family and healthcare. But much of their hearts remain in the communities they have loved.
Today, on September 26, Jim Soyk is eighty-five years old.
Today, I celebrate all that he and Juanita are to those whose lives have been touched by them. Jim is my precious dad, and Juanita is my beloved step-mother. Today, I wanted you to know what I know. I wanted you to know that their smiles have been hard-won, the praise they give to God springing from grateful hearts. Their journey has been hard, but God has given them a greater grace for each step. Though much adversity, they have always pressed on for the glory of God. I am so proud of them, and I love them so much.
Thanks, Dad, for always being there. Thanks for making it easy to love my heavenly Father because of the example you set. Thank-you for living with integrity so that your family could wear a good name.
Thank-you, Juanita, for loving us unconditionally and for accepting us as your family.
Happy birthday, Dad. Your faith has made you both unstoppable.
That’s what they told us. Oh, they used different words at different hospitals, but they all said the same thing. After Kevin’s devastating spinal cord injury sustained in a fall, his situation seemed hopeless. He lay paralyzed from the neck down and kept alive by a ventilator.
He was first taken to the local hospital at Lethbridge, Alberta, but was quickly transferred by helicopter to a Calgary hospital. We drove twelve hours through the night to join him after we received the call. When we arrived at the Calgary hospital the next morning, we were ushered into a gray room and joined by a gray doctor. He talked somberly about all the challenges Kevin faced. I don’t remember much of what he said to us. But his face said it all:
Expect the worst.
The second consultation was with a sour doctor who presented us with a bunch of “nevers.” Kevin would never breathe again. He would never move his body below his chin or possibly his shoulders. He might not even survive the complications of the injury. He would never go home to the United States, because no airline would take him on a flight. No medical crew would consent to accompany him, and no doctor in the States would accept him as a patient.
And, the doctor added, they didn’t have vent patients there. Kevin’s only way out was death.
But God is a God of the impossible.
We rejected this push for euthanasia, and God opened the way for Kevin to be flown back to a hospital in the United States in a chartered Lear jet, accompanied by a volunteer medical team and his brother Erik. Through the generosity of the people of Canada and here in the States, everything was paid in full. Kevin’s Canadian surgeon was a wonderful man who gave us our first ray of hope by telling us Kevin would probably survive, although his chances of recovering any function or feeling were one in a hundred. Virtually impossible.
Kevin’s trials increased after transferring to Spokane, when he experienced two respiratory codes and nearly died both times. He struggled with two bouts of pneumonia, finally stabilizing enough to be moved to a rehabilitation hospital. Along the way, he surprised the medical personnel by beginning to regain feeling and some slight movement.
Still, they reminded him that he could never wean off the ventilator. They told us that it would be impossible for us to care for him at home, and he would have to live in a nursing facility.
Our God is a God of the impossible.
Seven weeks after his injury, Kevin went home with us, his family, as his caregivers. Two years after the injury, he weaned off the vent during his waking hours, only going back on it at night to sleep. He gained more feeling and movement back in his body.
Today he can run a computer, walk with help, and do a few things for himself. Recently he began a new, self-imposed exercise regimen and has made new gains. He taught himself computer animation and 3D graphics, ran a studio with his brother, and now is the founder and senior editor of a website devoted to Christian music, http://www.cmaddict.com.
In 2008, he served as honorary groomsman at his brother Erik’s wedding. He was honorary groomsman at his friend Grant’s wedding, as well. Last September, Kevin rolled down the aisle of our church to stand beside his brother Daniel as his best man at his wedding.
Every day for twenty years, we have lived the impossible.
It has been with great joy we have watched God work in our weakness. He has given us miracles without end in this journey. Together, we have watched God bring our family closer through trial and release the fragrance of His grace in our broken lives and dreams. We have stood amazed at the tenderness and love with which our adult children have served their brother and us. We see with joy that God is building new dreams.
Yes, life has been hard. Kevin has suffered much. But he has chosen to serve God in his suffering. We have chosen to serve God in standing beside our son. The beauty we have been privileged to witness far outweighs the sorrow.
Today, on July 11, 2017, we celebrate twenty years of watching an awesome God at work. We rejoice at twenty years of life restored to our son. We look forward to the future, knowing that our Lord is still a God of miracles. Every day, in His power, we live this wonderful, impossible life together.
The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.
He lies in a hospital room, his little eyes mostly closed. Although he is nearly a year old, he seems so small. Like millions of others, I only know Charlie because his picture and story have been in the news recently.
The first thing that catches my eye in his pictures isn’t the tubes attached to the ventilator keeping him alive.
I’m used to ventilators. My son Kevin has been on one since a fall in 1997 paralyzed him from the neck down. He has since weaned off the ventilator during the days, and only goes back on to sleep at night. For our family, the ventilator is well-named: life support. We are grateful for life support because it has given Kevin a chance to live.
The first thing I notice about Charlie is his beautiful face. His long eyelashes brush his cheeks. His wisp of hair is carefully combed. Stuffed animals have been tucked around him. He is obviously well-loved.
Charlie Gard was born to Chris Gard and Connie Yates of London, England, on August 4, 2016. He began to decline shortly after birth, and eight weeks later his parents took him to the hospital. It was discovered that their son suffers from a rare and terminal disease called mitochondrial depletion syndrome. He is one of only sixteen known cases of the disease worldwide. It has left him with brain damage and progressive weakness. He now requires life support.
Through aggressive research, Charlie’s parents have discovered an experimental drug that has not yet been used to fight MDS, but has helped some children with a related syndrome called TK2. This treatment is not available in the United Kingdom but is available in the United States. A fundraising effort has raised more than a million dollars for his treatments, care, and travel.
But there’s a hitch in their hope.
The Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Charlie lies, wants control over when and how he should die. The doctors there have decided to turn off Charlie’s ventilator. They have denied the family’s right to either transfer him to a hospital in the United States willing to treat him or to take him home to die.
In June of this year, the case was appealed to the authority known as, ironically, The European Court of Human Rights. The high court ruled against Charlie’s parents and in favor of the hospital’s case to remove Charlie from life support and prevent his parents from seeking experimental treatment for their son outside the United Kingdom.
His parents have fought hard to help Charlie keep fighting for life.
“If he’s still fighting, we’re still fighting,” says his father, Chris Gard.
These words ignite my heart, because Charlie Gard could have been my son. Kevin did not have the rare disease with which Charlie was born. But we have faced some of the same crucial life issues that surround this little boy since Kevin’s fall in July of 1997, during a teen mission’s trip to Canada.
When Kevin broke his neck in Lethbridge, Alberta, he was airlifted to a larger hospital in Calgary that was better equipped to treat spinal cord injuries. When we learned that he had been injured, we made the twelve-hour-drive through the night from Idaho to Calgary to join him there.
Upon our arrival, we learned the awful news that Kevin was paralyzed from the neck down and on life support. The doctors at the initial consultations gave us little hope for his survival and virtually no hope for his recovery. One doctor was adamant that Kevin could not live. When I realized he was talking about euthanizing Kevin, I rebelled with all my strength.
No one had asked our son if he wanted to live. We would not make him die.
Through a series of events I can only describe as a miracle, Kevin not only came home to live after seven weeks in hospitals and rehab, he gained back more than the doctors could have guessed. He has lived at home with his family for twenty years and accomplished much in that time. We are thankful for every day we have had with him.
Through Kevin’s injury and recovery, we have learned several important lessons:
Doctors can be wrong.
Had we listened to the medical advice we were given, Kevin would be dead. The doctor who gave us no hope and tried to force his viewpoint on us was wrong. Kevin did improve and has lived a useful life.
It is not up to others to decide which lives should be saved.
We’ve had the joy of seeing God intervene in Kevin’s case and restore much to him. But we would have fought just as hard for him had he never regained any feeling or function. Once society begins to set a standard for humans to fulfill to be allowed to live, we are no better than Nazis. Because organs and medical treatment are at a premium, life has become a commodity to be doled to the most deserving.
When medical personnel make decisions based on the profit margin and a person’s perceived worth to society, a nation has lost its soul.
The term “death with dignity” is subjective.
Who gets to decide what constitutes dying with dignity? As a matter of fact, what constitutes living with dignity? When my mother was disabled by a series of strokes, there came a time that she developed pneumonia. The doctor decided not to treat her because, in his words, “Her life is useless.” He was going to let her die crying in a bed because he had made a judgment call about her worth. How dignified was that?
We insisted that he treat her. She recovered from the pneumonia and died some time later, peacefully, at God’s timing and with her family present. Her death, when it happened without duress, was more dignified than being forced to die at the doctor’s convenience.
Parents should have the right to fight for their children.
In most cases, no one is going to care more for a child than his parents. It is their God-given duty to protect their child. A truly caring health care professional considers the well-being of the entire family. What could it hurt to allow them to love their little boy for as long as possible, and let God take him home?
If we don’t fight for the life of others, we will all become Charlie Gard.
Once life becomes worthless, once we have allocated to others the power to give and take the life of another human being, we are all at risk. Who knows when the standard will change again, and your life no longer rises to the new level of worthiness?
Today there are protests in the streets over the G-20 summit. In ten years no one will remember the G-20 summit. But who will fight for the Charlie Gards of the world?
Who will fight for the soul of the nations?
UPDATE: In the face of mounting international pressure, the Great Ormond Street Hospital has postponed removing Charlie’s life support for now. The hospital and parents will return to the European court to seek permission allowing Charlie and his parents to travel to the United States for his treatment.
The Vatican hospital, Bambino Jesus pediatric hospital in Rome, and the New York Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Irving Medical Center have offered to accept Charlie for treatment. New York Presbyterian Hospital has also offered to ship the experimental drug to the Great Ormond Street Hospital and provide advice on its administration if needed.
Both President Trump and Pope Francis have weighed in on the matter in Charlie’s favor.
My bones were not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, when I was being skillfully woven in an underground workshop
-Psalm 139:15 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
You probably guessed that. You may have even been told that a few times by a frustrated friend, co-worker, or family member. You may not have realized, though, just how complex you really are.
According to National Geographic, the average human body contains thirty trillion cells. 1. Each individual genome, or set of instructions for the development and operation of one person, contains approximately three billion base pairs of the chemical code that comprise our DNA, attached to twenty-three pairs of chromosomes. 2. This chemical code determines our sex, what we will look like, and much more. That’s why it’s called the master blueprint of the body. 3.
There is, in fact, nothing simple about the “simple cell.” Each individual cell in your body is a finely-tuned factory working closely with the other cells of the body to sustain your life. You are not generally aware of the incredible processes of the systems keeping you alive, but you know when something isn’t working correctly. The body strives to stay at a pre-set “normal,” a state known as homeostasis, and even a small change in those processes can threaten your health or your life.
All that, and you’re just one person.
On a planet filled with over seven billion people, it’s easy to feel inconsequential. It’s even easier to see others as inconsequential, especially if their lives don’t meet society’s expectations or they become inconvenient. The aged, the weak, the disabled, the unplanned, seem expendable from that perspective. What’s one damaged life out of so many?
What’s one broken thread in the fabric of God’s plan for mankind?
Only everything. Just as every thread is needed to complete a work of art by a master weaver, so every life holds an important place in His plan for the world that is and the world to come.
Complexity points to a designer. A piece of art proves the existence of an artist. We all know that an intricately woven fabric is not made by dumping a bunch of thread on a loom. Someone must create it.
You are part of a grand design.
You and I are living threads in the hands of a Creator immense in power, limitless in imagination, and exquisite in the care with which He fashions His world. The skill with which He wove you in the womb, in all its unfathomable precision, pales beside the magnitude of the loom upon which He crafts history’s story. Not only are you a vital part of that plan, so is every other human. Our job is not to decide the value of others on this earth, but to respect every person’s value before God. Only He knows which threads will display the bold, royal colors of the kingdom, and which will carry the softer shades of grace. All are needed to complete the heavenly canvas upon which His story is revealed.
You matter. So does the homeless man on the corner, the baby with Down’s Syndrome, and the elderly woman with Alzheimer’s. May God forgive us for thinking we can choose the design for Him, for believing we know best.
It was nineteen years ago this month that our son Kevin broke his neck in a fall and sustained a devastating spinal cord injury. It’s one of those anniversaries that are bittersweet. So much is so good in our lives. And yet, the loss is there every day.
I nearly forgot the day this year – a testament, I guess, to the fact that we’ve moved on in many ways. Kevin is still mostly disabled, and yet he still continues to make new gains when we least expect it. We’re still mostly caregivers. And yet, I love and appreciate life more than ever.
It’s strange and wonderful how we need both darkness and light to grow.
The end of last year began a new season for us as a family. A series of events have unfolded in a phenomenon that has, in rapid succession, answered several of my most desperate and long-standing prayers for my children and grandchildren. You know, those “the stone will have to roll away from the tomb” prayers, breathed so often I feared that I might irritate God with their frequency. They were the prayers carried in the night with a heavy heart and many tears before heaven. The ones that spring automatically to mind. You know.
I prayed them for years without answers.
Then, without warning, a door opened. Then another, and another.
In August of last year, our youngest daughter Grace began a good job locally. Prayer answered.
In November of last year, we received the news that our son Erik and daughter-in-law Rachel were expecting for the first time after being told that would probably never happen. We welcomed our first grandson into the world in May of this year. Prayer answered.
In May of this year, our youngest son Daniel announced his engagement to a wonderful woman named Jenna. Prayer answered.
In June of this year, our eldest granddaughter Rebekah graduated from homeschool and was immediately accepted into the university of her choice. Her parents, our eldest daughter Jennifer and husband Scott, had sacrificed for many years and throughout many trials to educate their daughters. Rebekah is the second-generation to graduate from homeschool in our family. Prayer answered.
Their youngest daughter, Vanessa, will begin her first year of college level work as she finishes her last years in homeschool. Prayer answered.
This August, our son-in-law finally begins to see his long-standing dream of teaching become a reality. Prayer answered.
This summer, Kevin has been able, for the first time, to sit unassisted for nearly an hour at the side of his bed. This, from a man who was never supposed to move again. Ever. This, from a man who was thought – by some in the medical profession – to be better off dead. This, after nearly two decades of disability. Prayer answered.
Aaron and I continue to have the health we need to be caregivers and walk Kevin’s journey with him. Nineteen years ago, we were told it would be impossible for us to care for him at home. We live the impossible every day with him.
Living in Graceland.
A friend once told me that her daughter, who liked to come to our place and see Grace, used to call our place “Graceland.” We chuckle at the ironic designation. It seems fitting, though, because we are the house that grace built. This anniversary of Kevin’s accident is our reminder that God is always at work. Prayer is crucial, and He is never irritated that we bring our heartaches and hopes to Him.
If you’re facing impossible odds today, if darkness is all around you, lift up your head. God still answers prayer. He loves you, and He is at work in your life.
She lay against the stark white sheets of the gurney, her face gray and her hands bent awkwardly inward. A series of strokes had long-silenced her lilting Southern twang, and she communicated much as an infant, her cries and grunts only distinguishable to the initiated. At the sight of me, her face contorted in a pathetic wail, brownish-red drool drizzling from one corner of her mouth.
“Pneumonia,” someone at the nursing had said two hours earlier, when they first called to tell me that they were sending my mother to the hospital. I had quickly arranged my schedule to meet her at the emergency room when she arrived. My brother joined me in the waiting room, and we watched in vain for her arrival. Finally I checked again at the desk and discovered she had not yet been sent down from the nursing home.
I called the home, and they said they were still awaiting the doctor’s order to transport her down. We waited some more. I called the doctor’s office to see what was happening. No one knew. After two hours, she finally landed in the emergency room, where she lay untreated as busy nurses and techs buzzed around the nurses’ station. I could only guess they were waiting for doctor’s orders to proceed.
She continued to cry. We continued to wait. I stood at her side, stroking her hair and murmuring meaningless words of comfort as I choked back angry tears.
No one ever came in the room to care for her.
Something was definitely wrong, and I finally lost my patience. I summoned my nerve and marched out to the nurses’ station. “Is Doctor in the hospital?” I asked the startled nurses.
“Uh, I can try to page him for you,” one of them ventured.
“Fine. I want to talk to him.”
They exchanged nervous glances and had him on the phone in short order.
“This is Opal Soyk’s daughter,” I spit out. “We have been waiting hours in E.R. to have her treated. What the h— is going on?”
My rare foray into profanity surprised even me. But Doctor was up to the fight. “I wasn’t planning to bring her down here. She’s only here because you insisted.”
I was momentarily confused by the direction of the conversation. After all, I was only there because I had been called by the nursing home. What was going on? My mind raced to untangle what had happened as I asked, “Well, what are you planning to do for her?”
One worthless life…
“Nothing. I wasn’t going to treat her. She’s an old woman. Her life is useless, anyway. Why do you want to keep her alive?”
My soul exploded into little shards of red-hot pain as clarity came. He had planned to let her die untreated in her bed at the nursing home.
But this was not a useless old woman. This was my mother.
All my life, my mother had fought for me. Always, unconditionally, and without reservation, Mother had been my champion and protector. It was time to return the honor.
“That is not your decision to make,” I retorted loudly, turning heads at the nurses’ station. “Your job is to treat her.”
Doctor hung up on me.
He never did bother to show up at the emergency room. But shortly afterward, she was admitted to the hospital. With proper treatment, Mother recovered from her illness and lived some time longer before dying peacefully at the nursing home with her family in attendance.
Who Is the Lord of Life and Death?
In the months leading up to her strokes, Mother knew something awful was happening in her body. She kept it mostly secret, but looking back, I realized that she was preparing us for the inevitable. One day she told me that if anything happened to her, she wanted every chance at life. She also said, “I changed your diapers; you can change mine.”
I remembered those words after her strokes, and I was thankful to know her wishes. But I often agonized as I watched her body slowly wither away. I knew, though, that if we hastened her death, it would not be her choice, but ours. That would be neglect. Or worse.
In the long nights during those five years, I reminded God that she had taken Him to be Lord of her life. I asked Him to be Lord of her death.
The last night the nursing home called us, she had fallen into a coma after not responding to medication for a new infection. Her body showed the obvious signs of shutting down. We gathered around her bed, sang all her favorite hymns, and cheered her on. We read Scriptures to her, prayed quietly, and loved her into God’s presence.
My mother taught me how to live. She taught me how to die. And she taught me that God is the Lord of both.
Kevin Thorson lay paralyzed in the grass of a church lawn in Canada. Moments earlier, he was practicing backflips with a friend when he missed a rotation, fell on his head, and broke his neck nearly at his skull. As a friend ran for help, he lay there alone, not breathing, fading into blackness as he fell unconscious.
He told us later that it was at that moment, when he felt himself near death, that the presence of God came to him. The sense of the next world was intensely powerful, forever making this side of the veil seem the impostor. It would have been quick, even merciful, to have slipped quietly away to join God.
But God wasn’t there to take him to heaven.
Instead, He had a message for Kevin. A voice so real Kevin thought it was audible told him, “You’re going to be okay.”
He awakened not okay. He was in a desperate fight for his life. Emergency personnel worked feverishly to keep him alive until he could be put on life support. He endured a helicopter ride to a larger hospital in Calgary, a doctor’s push for euthanasia, surgeries, pneumonia, bronchoscopy, paralysis, loss of privacy, and much pain in the first weeks before he returned home.
Later he endured serious infections that landed him in intensive care. He had more surgeries for kidney stones. He spent two years on the ventilator before weaning off it on days, something that had been declared an impossibility by his doctors. He regained more than they expected, but not enough for a normal life.
The loss was profound. It came in layers as the reality of the depth of his disability struck home. Some days he grieved over the dreams he would never see realized. Other days he longed for just the feel of grass beneath his feet again.
But as victories came, like breathing on his own and taking his first steps and running a computer, there was a stirring in his soul. He began to truly appreciate being alive. Watching him struggle to live out his faith despite profound brokenness, I began to see how completely God had brought to pass what He promised Kevin: He would be okay.
Today I understand this: Existence, in all its facets, is a gift.
It is the man who has been told he would never breathe on his own who appreciates the feeling of air in his lungs.
It is the man who has endured great pain who appreciates a day when his body is at peace.
It is the man who once lost all feeling who takes joy in the warmth of the sun on his arms, the softness of a kitten’s fur beneath his fingers, and his legs under him again as he takes his first shaky steps.
It is the man who has had everything taken away who treasures anything given back.
It is in loss that we understand the gift.
To exist is to be. We are made in mirror image of our Creator, who calls Himself the great “I AM.” We were made to experience. We were made to feel, to love, to laugh, to hurt.
Those who say, “I would never want to live like that” must give room to those who do want to live, even if it is “like that.” The disabled and the vulnerable and the aged and the pre-born have no duty to die because their existence is inconvenient for others.
Yes, it would have been easier for Kevin to die that awful day in 1997. But what richness of life we would have missed in knowing him. The world is a better place because he exists.
I’m honored to have writer and counselor Susanne Maynes with us here at Every Life Matters. Susanne has worked at a pregnancy resource center for eight years. Her heart for God and her service to women in crisis uniquely equips her to speak with us today.
I enter the room quietly, take my seat across from the nervous teen, and gently ask how she is feeling. Her eyes pool.
“Not so good. I can’t believe this is happening to me.”
Her story unfolds. Courtney (not her real name) hasn’t yet finished high school, let alone pursued her field of study and career of choice. Her dreams are at stake.
On top of that, her parents don’t approve of the boy. They will be disappointed and angry, she fears.
I’m facing a familiar scenario, one I’ve seen many times as a counselor at a pregnancy resource center. My job is to help this young woman understand her pregnancy options, offer her emotional and spiritual support, and help her take hold of hope for both herself and her baby.
Why do I do this? Because I’m fighting to save babies, right?…or am I?
It’s true that the lives rescued by the pro-life movement are the lives of tiny unborn babies; it’s true that once those babies are born, we rejoice at their delightful, innocent, brand-new presence in the world.
But all cuteness and giggles and coos aside, I’m not really fighting to save the lives of babies. I’m fighting to save the lives of people.
Those infant boys and girls will grow into toddlers, grammar school kids, teens. They’ll be adults one day. We’ll see them on the job, in the grocery store, at church.
And when we see them, we might ask ourselves, When did the sacred value of their life begin?
From the first “stitch” that God knit together in the womb.
Psalm 139:13, 16 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
From his sovereign perspective, God sees every life from beginning to end.
At no point in the continuum is a person less than a person in his eyes.
I saw a comic a few years ago depicting two teen girls talking. The pregnant one tells her friend, “I think it’s a puppy!”
Therein lays the problem with thinking of the pro-life objective as “saving babies.” The issue isn’t just rescuing darling little infants from being sucked out of this world; the issue is fighting for the fulfillment of human destinies.
As Dr. Ravi Zacharias eloquently explained at a conference I attended, God’s answer to human dilemmas is always found in a person. The Israelites needed the right man to lead them out of slavery in Egypt – thank God Moses’ mother was courageous enough to save his life during a time of mandatory male infanticide.
Later, God’s people needed deliverance from various oppressors, and God raised up judges to rescue them.
Ultimately, God’s solution for the biggest human dilemma ever came through the person of his very own son.
Dr. Zacharias wonders how many times we have begged and pleaded for help from God – and become offended at his apparent unconcern — when in reality, he had already sent the answer, and we destroyed that answer in the womb.
This is why I sit across from troubled women to help them take hold of hope. This is why I pray, my heart breaking, while they wrestle with their decisions.
Not just to save babies. To save people. People who are the apple of God’s eye and his answer to our problems.
Courtney decided against abortion. Her little boy will be born in a few weeks.
Who knows what kind of an answer he will be?
Susanne Maynes is the Counseling Director at Life Choices Clinic, a pregnancy resource center where she has worked for eight years. She is a Board Certified Biblical Counselor with the Board of Christian and Pastoral Counselors. Susanne blogs weekly at www.susannemaynes.com to help sincere but discouraged Christians find healing, gain insight and take heart so they can live out their faith with courageous compassion.
In much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain. -Ecclesiastes 1:18 NASB
The Witch of Buchenwald
Ilse Koch was the wife of Karl Koch, commandant of the notorious Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Not content to be a quiet military wife, Ilse immersed herself in a decadent lifestyle at the camp. The Kochs lived lavishly at Buchenwald, eating and drinking and partying as prisoners around them starved. It was reported that she and her husband even hosted orgies for the SS guards.
Ilse soon became an SS Aufseherin, or overseer. She was a reputed sadist who was so cruel that she was dubbed the “Bitch of Buchenwald,” a corruption of the German Die Hexe van Buchenwald, “Witch of Buchenwald.” She enjoyed tormenting prisoners as she rode around the camp on her horse.
She had a special fascination with tattoos. She singled out prisoners whose tattoos caught her eye and ordered them killed by the SS guards. Their skins were tanned, from which she had custom lampshades, book covers, and gloves made for her. She was reportedly especially fond of a purse made of human skin. Another of her hobbies was collecting shrunken human heads.
Waste not, want not.
It took a world war to rip the facade from a regime so brutal that it still shocks the conscience of civilized nations. When the nearby town of Weimar, Germany, was liberated by Allied forces, General Patton forced its citizens to march past the piles of corpses, the crematoria, and the grisly body organ samples from Buchenwald. A holocaust happened in their land as they looked the other way.
See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.
For years I wondered how the world could not know what was happening in Nazi Germany. Now I understand. They chose not to see.
Knowledge is painful.
It tears at our hearts, our souls, and our conscience. It brings us to our knees and confers upon us the responsibility to act. And it makes us vulnerable to loss, to retribution, to the criticism of others.
It’s so much easier to live in ignorance.
The recent videos exposing the thriving business behind the abortion industry have ripped off the facade of “women’s health.” It revealed what we guessed at but didn’t want to acknowledge:
Once a person is declared non-viable, nothing is sacred.
Today, people are being harvested for their organs and tissue. It’s big business, it’s the next logical step, and it’s been done before.
Waste not, want not.
Will we stand with the citizens of Weimar one day and be forced to look upon the injustice that swirled around us as we busied ourselves with distractions that conveniently hid the truth? Will we weep then for the lives we could have saved if only we had spoken up?
Or will we open our eyes now to seek out the wisdom of God?
Are we willing to discover what breaks His heart? Do we have the courage to embrace the pain?
If we can do this, we can become His hands and His feet and His voice on behalf of a new generation who is perishing.