Dead for One Hour

Yesterday I received a most fascinating message from my friend Norma Blank, from Pennsylvania, after she read that I had died:

“O my word friend…the post that someone put on ur wall made me go absolutely crazy…Like u passed away….I’m just so relieved that u r still here!! What In the world…”

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About an hour earlier, another friend, who lost her daughter in March, had posted a note to my wall in memory of her daughter, and Norma saw it. Not knowing my family, she had no idea that the woman posting it was not my mother, or that the note was not intended as written to me.  What my friend saw, looked like this:

A note to my daughter

I close my eyes as I wipe a tear.
I just keep wishing you were still here.
I will hold all the memories deep in my heart.
Through these memories we will never part.

I close my eyes as I wipe a tear.
I just keep wishing this pain would disappear.
I didn’t get the chance to say my last good-bye.
I just didn’t think you could ever die.

I close my eyes as I wipe a tear.
All of your love I will always hold near.
In my heart and my mind I will never be alone.
When my time comes……
I will meet you in heaven!
(Unknown)

To be perfectly honest, I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to die, and watch people as they react to it. And I’ve even wondered if the spirits of the dead are aware of our goings on, as we try to reconcile our loss with all the other facts that play in. If the person has been ill for a long time, we are relieved that their suffering is over. If they died in a crash, instantly, we are thankful they did not suffer long, and yet the horror of it torments us. If they are elderly and all their friends have passed on, they may have longed for the day, and we are glad for them. But regardless the dynamics of the story, and ‘how’ or ‘why’ of death, we are left with grief and loss, and need to somehow reconcile that with every other aspect of these dynamics.

Do the spirits of the dead see this? Hear this? Who knows for certain. But it is a curious thought that has entered my mind, on occasion, since childhood. Having contemplated this in the past made it that much more intriguing to experience it in real life.

I read Norma’s message again, and that is when it struck me. She actually thought I was dead! I wonder how long she thought it… What did she feel… think… do?  I wrote her and asked her…

“Is it okay that I’ve had a good laugh about this? Too funny! Now I know what it feels like in real life, to have someone’s heart sink when you die. Sorry that I find that funny. I have to ask… how long did you think I was dead?  (and how did you figure out I’m still alive?)”

She wrote back: I thot u were dead for like an hr….so in the middle of not knowing I decided to wash my car and I was like goin in circles literally and wondering how in the world this all happened so fast ..and ur poor kids ..and husband ..and the funeral will prob b on Sunday and I’m just wondering why I was so crazy with it all!” Her next message was, “And then !!! U posted something!!!!’ and u were alive!!!!!!!”

I could see it all playing out in my imagination. The need to do something, to be busy, as the adrenaline of the shock runs its course. It’s distressing, that kind of thing. If not quite funny under the circumstances.

I responded with: “LOL!!!!! I’m so sorry for your loss! Your grief… whatever! But that just kills me laughing!”

I gave Tim a play by play, as I read the messages, and his very calm response was, “Maybe she could come any way, and wash our car for the funeral”.

Norma agreed. “Lol!! Yes I’m a pro car washer by now!! Went in like 35644749 circles today!!! It’s clean!!”

Then a few minutes later she wrote, “Hav I told u how glad I am that u r alive? Well I am.  so after I finally realized that u were still alive and kickn I pumped up my bike tires and went cruzin’ down the road for another hr! Not goin in circles lol! Just cruzin’ and feeling so relieved.” 

“That was a great way to celebrate,”  I wrote back,”I dream of owning a bike, one day, but as I get older, I dream less of it  So…. if ever I do slip into heaven… Go on a bike ride for me to celebrate my life.”

“awww yea”, Norma wrote back, “I’ll make a Tshirt just for u…cruzin’ for Trudy! Or make a shirt for when I go see Gods not dead….God’s not dead and neither is Trudy!! Lol'”

Now that I know what it’s like to die, and be missed and have my life grieved and celebrated by a friend, I can lay that question to rest. However, the mystery of what lies beyond that moment of exhaling here for the last time, and breathing eternal life for the first time, is left to my imagination, and I will have to wait for it.

I think of heaven often, these days…

This world is tired. The darkness that hovers all around has exhausted it. It groans, and I groan with it. I’m tired. My spirit is not at home here…. Never really was… Never really will be… Even as a child, before anyone taught me, I longed for another world and knew I was not made for this place…  And, even if I live to be 100–God helps us all if I do–that truth remains. This isn’t my home.

Don’t get me wrong. I love life. I love my family, my friends and I love what I do. And there is still so much I want to accomplish. I want to publish my first book, and a second, and a third and a fourth,… And maybe more. I want to travel to numerous countries to speak, not the least of which are plans-in-the-making for New Zealand and Australia. But the unrest, the tragedies all around, and the ‘dark side’ of my work with ongoing sexual abuse in Christian cultures… These are in desperate need of redemption.

While I wait, I will celebrate the life of One man who died for me… A God-man, who allowed Himself to be cast into the grave and hades, for my sin. Like my friend Norma, His friends rejoiced–and we still rejoice with them–because His soul was not left in hades, nor was His body left to decay in the grave. (Acts 2:31) After three days, He rose to life again to be my eternal hope.

Because of what He has done for me, I have no fear of death. What’s more, because of Him, I am offered full life, abundant life, while I here. So, because of Him, I will give the best that I have, and all that I am, to Him and His cause, and live life to the fullest, while I am here.

 

© Trudy Metzger

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Jesus, High & Lifted Up

My tummy felt unsettled, upon waking, and it was moments before tears welled up, and spilled over.

The little boy was 11. The mother, who beat him within a breath of his life, shouted “You’re not my son! You’re not my son!” one minute, and loudly shouted the Lord’s prayer in the next.

I was almost seven when my father threatened to kill our family. Later that day, in a drunken stupor, he belted out religious hymns and muttered incoherently about ‘poor Moses’ and ‘baby Jesus’, leaning over my baby brother. It scared me.

It has been thirty-seven years since that day that shaped so much of who I am today. That day, when I decided no one would take care of me, except me. I’ve had much healing, and renounced the vow I made to not need anyone, but the emotions linger, below the surface. Sometimes closer than I like.

I have no choice but to acknowledge past trauma and present grief when this happens. Not so much grief for me, or our family, any more, but grief that children still suffer. But I cannot linger long in that place. It is too dark and oppressive.

So I lifted my heart to heaven, and my eyes to the cross, this morning, and held up a little 11-yr-old boy whom I’ve never met. And asked Jesus to be with Him, to heal him. Because that little boy has physical, emotional and spiritual scars, if he survives, that will haunt him for life. I know this. And his two siblings, as well.

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When I think of these words of Jesus, almost without fail, I also think of the brass serpent Moses made in the Old Testament, Numbers 21, to be exact. In this story serpents attacked the Children of Israel, after they complained about God having rescued them from Egypt, where they had it so-o-o-o good! (How soon we forget!)

When the Children of Israel saw the consequences for their sin, they repented, and went to Moses, begging him to ask God to get rid of the serpents.

What God does next is a powerful sign of the coming Messiah, Jesus. God tells Moses to make a Serpent, and lift it up on a pole. If the people look at it, they will live.

Moses does as God says, makes the snake, and lifts it up. By that time many have died, and others are dying. But every one who raised their eyes, in obedience, was healed. It was not the snake that healed but faith, in what God had said, that healed them.

The symbolism of this event plays in my mind often, because of the work I do. If God had not called me to work with Sexual Abuse Victims, I would prefer never again in my life to utter the words, ‘sexual abuse’. It is such a tragic thing! And I love to focus on the brighter side of life.

But this abuse reminds me of those snakes. And to not acknowledge, is to watch countless people die a slow and painful ‘death of the heart and spirit’, without doing what I can.

In a way, I feel like God has asked me to sit with victims who are ‘bitten by the snake’, and point up, to the cross, where Jesus hangs dying for us, for our sin, our pain. If for no other reason, I believe God chose the cross because it is lifted up. It requires us taking our eyes off of ourselves, our pain, our trauma, and the ‘stuff of life’ and seeing a whole new perspective of suffering. The redemption.

And that is a hard thing to see, when we look down and focus only on our pain, or even the darkness around us. But when our eyes are lifted up, to Jesus on the cross, and we see His suffering for us, it changes our perception. It doesn’t change our circumstances, at least not immediately, but it changes the way we see them.

When we focus long enough on the cross, and acknowledge that suffering of Jesus, the Christ–our Messiah–then we realize He too did not stay in that place of suffering.

The revelation strikes us that His suffering brought our redemption, and if we let God use us, then our suffering will bring the redemption of others.

Oh… it is so tempting to stay caught up in our pain. For a long, long time. Much longer than we would need to. Because we get comfortable in our pain. We learn to embrace the sympathy we can draw from others, and we cringe at giving that up. We fear that if we cannot use that sympathy, the whole world will abandon us.

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Instead, when we lift our eyes to Jesus, and see Him, not only on the cross, but the Risen Saviour, and we begin to speak that kind of Hope to the world, out of our own suffering, it is then we discover true relationship with others. A relationship of giving, of pouring out, of making a difference.

While those who oppose me try to draw my eyes away from the Christ, and to the pathetic arguments of ‘this world’… And while the enemy attacks with various lame distractions… I have made a commitment. I will keep my eyes on Jesus, High and Lifted up.

And I will encourage all I meet to join me. Because when we do, the ‘serpent’s bites’–those tragic things we have experienced in our lives–will lose their power. Then we will live… truly live. We will be more alive than we were before the tragedy struck. And then the enemy’s power over us will be broken! Then even 11-yr-old boys, who are beaten within a breath of their life and scarred in every way, can be made whole again, and little girls too.

©TrudyMetzger

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A Week in the Life of… And the Things Humans Say…

What a week! I intentionally scheduled very little for Easter Monday, knowing that my children would be off school. And it was a good thing, since I ended up running a fever, and fighting a cold-flu bug. The rest of the week was filled with appointments, so I took it easy that day, doing little more than feeding my family and answering the phone.

Calls came in steady, asking about the conference, especially from the Old Order community, telling me they would like to come, and they’re hoping many of their community and surrounding Mennonite communities join in. It’s time for the silence to shatter. One of the leaders even called to ask questions, and told me he knows I am working with a client from his congregation. “Be encouraged,” he said, “you’re making a difference.”

Another woman called to to chat and share her heart, and talk about the passion she has for helping the local Mennonite community. We talked for almost two hours, and were encouraged by each other. It’s the beginning of a friendship.

Monday ended on somewhat of a calm note for me. After meeting with one client in the evening, I relaxed in my recliner. I had only a low-grade fever but otherwise felt quite well. A good night’s rest and I would be set to go for a busy few days…

On Tuesday I met a friend for coffee. We touch base once a year, or so, getting caught up on what’s happening in each other’s families, their businesses, and our ministry.

Immediately after coffee, I met with a client at a local church that has graciously allowed me to use their space, from time to time, for this purpose. And from that moment life became a whirlwind.

I learned that my client, a young woman in her twenties, the mother of two children, had attempted suicide the night before. She has battled through this before, but this time she lost hope, and acted spontaneously. Thank God that He spared her life! It took a while for me to absorb the reality, and I didn’t really until the day after. We spent our session talking, or just sitting quietly when words failed, and other times simply praying. At one point she fell to the floor, weeping in agony, and all I could do was pray quietly, and let my own tears fall.

I had another meeting scheduled, so I left for a time, and then returned later to meet with her and several other individuals, in an effort to bring safety, support and stability to her world. And, to an extent, we did. We talked, sometimes cried, and then prayed. At the end of our session as I prepared to leave, one of the individuals looked out the window and saw a heart-shaped cloud.

from phone April 2013 113

The last client I met that day, comes from the Old Order church, and I meet with a ‘team of two’ each time. We spent some time talking through ‘the stuff of life’ and current struggles, and I learned that someone had spoken harshly, and shut down their very spirit and heart. I went back to the deep identity we are given in God, and the position of authority we are given through Jesus, and affirmed them.

After I made sure my client was grounded and doing well, I returned home. I had walked out the door just after 8:30am and returned just after 10:30pm, exhausted, but fulfilled. Seldom are days that packed.

On Wednesday morning I received a call from another local newspaper, wondering if they could do a story, and would I meet so they could take my photo? Why not? It’s good advertising–the story that is–and the picture will help people identify me and hopefully create a connection when we meet in the grocery store.

The reporter asked me to bring any books I use in mentoring my clients. I told her I use only my Bible and conversation to help people, though I have several books I recommend they read. She asked if I would bring only my Bible then.

At noon I met the pleasant young reporter. I took my new Bible, since giving my other one to Abigail. The reporter took a half dozen pictures, and it was all over. Funny how it all worked out, because the rest of my week was jam-packed–except Friday, which was too late–and that short stretch was all the free time I had, just when she needed me.

I met with another client who is in a very difficult place. We worked through some things, but a heaviness and a sadness hung over her, making it hard to end the session. But commitments must be kept, and I cannot be a god to anyone, so I had to release her even when it was the hardest  thing in the world to do.

With a burdened heart I drove off for the evening…

I met Juanita, my super-sweet friend, with whom I go visit Aylmer Amish country from time to time. It was a refreshing conclusion to a busy two days. I love the Amish cooking, the sweet, beautiful kids, and the earthy feel of unadulterated country living. The Wagler families, and their friends, are kind and welcoming. (I think we need to create an ‘Amish Experience’ retreat centre.)

I had left my phone in the car earlier, and by the time I returned at the end of our visit, to head home, I had numerous messages. Two stood out in particular, in stark contrast to each other, each leaving a powerful impact.

The first was a message from a young woman who identified herself as a former classmate of one of our daughters. She shared some of her struggles, but more than that she thanked me for being a voice of hope… a light in her world. It was an honour to hear from someone so young, and an encouragement to discover that God is bringing hope to her through the blog. She specifically mentioned Abigail’s story, and how much it has helped her.

The other message was disheartening. Many of the people I work with have suffered much abuse–emotional, physical, sexual, and sometimes even spiritual–and therefore many of them struggle with depression, suicidal tendencies and cutting. Percentage wise it is probably over sixty percent that deal with some form or self harm or suicidal ideation. Most of them are Christians who desperately want to be free, and are slowly gaining the tools to overcome. One truth at a time they discover their true worth, their God-given identity, and with that they overcome the lies.

It takes little to be the undoing of that truth, early on, when clients are still vulnerable and weak. And that is just what the second message was about. One of my clients had received yet another message laced with guilt-tripping, and reminding her, harshly, that her struggle was a slap in God’s face after all He had done for her.

I felt sick. Physically. I didn’t question the intent, but I knew it had the potential to push my client to a place of darkness and struggle against suicide. It is so counter-productive, and find myself constantly undoing the damage of words spoken. It feels at times like a step forward and a dozen backward, all because of words spoken when clients are too week to handle them, or to process them. And I think to myself, what if Christians actually stopped to ask themselves if Jesus used that kind of verbiage and manipulation… what if they spoke only the way He spoke, and used only His methods, His way? Wouldn’t it change things for those struggling?  

After touching base with my client, and letting her know that God loves her and has not forgotten her, I returned to my ‘present’. I told stories, and even did some reading to entertain Juanita as we drove home. She is a saint of a friend! (Granted her halo is probably a bit bent out of shape, possibly thanks to my influence, but she is an amazing friend!)

It was late when I returned home….

Thursday morning I awakened to our son visiting our room. It was his birthday. Kordan turned eleven, my little boy not much longer, as he grows into manhood. It is almost shocking how quickly it all happens.

In the morning, after the children were off to school, I met a friend for coffee. Later I had a meeting at the bank with Tim, and then home again to get the birthday supper made, complete with a ‘Starfy’ birthday cake. It’s all my little guy really wanted for his birthday–the Starfy game for his Nintendo DS, so we got that, and a few other little things, and I made a cake to match.

from phone April 2013 145from phone April 2013 137

And here it is Friday already. I’m still fighting the bug I picked up on Easter weekend, and my back has been bothering me ever since, which is weird. I never have back pain. Only once every couple of years. So to be walking around with my back all stiff and feeling hunched over is kind of strange.

I have no plans, no meetings, no appointments throughout my day. It’s been an intense week, and I’m happy just to be home, and rest my body. There are things that desperately need my attention here, that may or may not get done. So far, at 1:25pm, I have spent my day on the phone answering questions about the conference, and responding to texts and emails. For the rest of the day I anticipate getting more calls about the conference, and hopefully I will get a bit of writing done…. (At least enough to get this blog posted!)

And that is how one week slips into the next, in my life. If I learned anything at all this week, it is to double check my words, my tone, my message and my motivations.

When I see the trauma well meaning words bring into the lives of my clients, I stop and wonder if I do that to others around me. Do I communicate the love of Jesus, and inspire deep conviction to live for God, or do I tear down, through control, through manipulation, through condemnation? It struck me more powerfully than ever, this week, how humans destroy the spirits of those who are struggling with their words, even though often well-meaning.

As my life touches others, I pray that the love of Jesus shines through, and they walk away a bit stronger, more encouraged and with more hope than they had when they came. I pray they long to know the Jesus I love, because they have seen and felt His grace.

And I pray that you, too, will check your words, guard your heart, and ask yourself the question, “Do my words give life, because they reflect Jesus, or do they shut down the heart and soul of those I meet, through condemnation, manipulation and guilt-tripping?”

© Trudy Metzger

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