Sunday, December 18, 2011

A grave blanket and the thoughts it evoked....

I had a few ladies sitting around my dining room table last Monday morning, when I looked out the window and saw Mike bringing pine boughs onto the porch.  I knew that he was gathering them to make a grave blanket for Duane's grave.  We started buying them a few years ago.  I wish I had taken a picture of that first one.  A friend of Duane's happened to be working where I ordered it, and she created a special "Duane" blanket, complete with big safety pins and chains like he liked to wear.  I just know he liked it!  Last year, we started making them ourselves.  In today's economy, you just have to do as much as you can yourself.

These ladies and I meet every week or so.  Sometimes we watch a video and sometimes we talk about things that we're going through.  We are building relationships and helping each other grow.  We share things that we have learned from God's Word, too.  It's amazing how, by the end of our hour and a half or so, great burdens can be lifted and we know how to handle situations.  Anyway, when I saw what Mike was doing, I interrupted the conversation and asked them to pray for him, because I knew the sadness that he was experiencing.  Then we got into a conversation about how we should celebrate the life of our loved ones and be happy that they are in Heaven.  I totally agree, but that doesn't take away the sense of loss, the sadness or the grief.  

After everyone left, I felt like continuing that conversation some more, so I sent my friends an email.  I wasn't looking for a reply; just wanted to say some things.  Here's what I told them:
"You know, we were talking about how it is right to celebrate the life that we shared with Duane, his time, his talents, the blessings of him, celebrate that he is in Heaven, etc. ....... That is all true, and I do, but........ (and you probably all know this, but I just feel like sharing it..... women like to talk, as you know!) ..... I still grieve the loss and always will. I still miss him at every holiday. And many "normal" days. Whenever a family photo is taken, I look at it and know there is one person missing. I miss him when I look at other people's art and wonder what more he would have created here, and is creating "There." I miss him when I think of the movie "Shrek." It was one of his favorites. I miss him when I drive by what used to be Mount Tone. I miss him when I think of pottery. I think it was his favorite mode of creating. I still think of what his family would have been like today.... wife, children, etc. Of course, I also know that perhaps he was spared much heartache and that now he is living life to the fullest. But.... it will never stop hurting. I just don't talk about it much."   By that, I didn't mean that I experience "hurt" every moment, but you just never know when something will happen that causes an emotional ambush.

Over the last eight years.... nearly nine years now.... I have come far on this journey of grief.  There's a common saying that you can let life's tragedies make you "bitter" or "better."  I like to believe that, with God's help, I have gotten "better."  As much as I can, I now help others make this journey that none of us ever wanted to take in the first place.  I no longer experience the roller coaster of emotions.  I am thankful for the memories, and thankful that Duane blessed our lives.  But grief is not something you "get over."  It changes your life forever.  Life never returns to "normal."

After I sent that email to my friends, I watched the updated, expanded version of the video that Duane's friend Ken Wormuth created, "In Loving Memory of Duane DuBois."  I had myself a good cry, and then I felt better.

While it's true that One Day all of our tears will be wiped away,

"and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;
and there will no longer be any death;
there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain..."
~ Rev. 21:4

in this life, here and now.... sometimes, you just have to cry.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Intrigue, mystery, curious, safe....

This is another one of Duane's drawings where the subject seems to be standing in or facing light.   The last one I posted I had called "In The Light."  I haven't given this one a title, but I did ask for comments from friends and family as to what it meant to them.  Here is what I received:

"The shadows look like a bird swooping in, almost as if it's a protective shadow. But without the metaphorical view, it seems to show curiosity, he wants to know what's in those woods, or he hears something, and doesnt know whether to check it out or not. And knowing Duane, lol, he'd check it out."

My response to that was, "Yes, you're definitely right - he would check it out!"

"Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me..... comes to mind first... also the images remind me of 1. a desert with dry brush aka tumbleweeds blowing about 2. a swamp that he is wallowing in as he continues towards the light at the narrow end of the darkness 3. look at the figure: the light is casting a shadow behind him, he is walking/making his way towards the light."

"I'm seein' an Island cove, on a moon-lit night and someone wading out to get a better view of the rising moon, maybe more intrigued by it or drawn to it.
And a large wave, with some sort of Aztec writing on it, is about to crash down on this person. It also looks like a bolt or rod or something is coming down out of the wave.  And the fern-like shapes on the bottom left,
I think they are leaves on the shore."

"To me it looks like the man is vulnerable, being naked in water; trusting and willing to go up the narrow path (the stream) even though surrounded by dangers (darkness and shadows); he is trusting that he will be safe; he knows he has nothing on his own to make it through; that is why his arms and hands show he is trusting God and ready to obey. Scriptures support that he is protected even when the water overtakes him."

Probably the verse my friend was thinking of was this: 

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,  your Savior."  Isaiah 43:2-3a Amp.  God proved this was true when He led the Israelites through the Red Sea by parting the water (Exodus chapter 14), and when he protected Daniel's friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego when they were thrown into a fiery furnace.  They came out unharmed, not even smelling like smoke!  (See Daniel Chapter 3.)

"I didn't have the pleasure of knowing Duane. Looking at alot of his drawings, he was a very spiritual young man. In this drawing I see a young man looking towards the light. You can see the light reflecting off his face and the front of his body. He looks unsure of where he is but with his arms extended, he is giving himself up to the light. I'm sure Duane is always looking down on you and gets great pleasure at everyone discussing his drawings. You will meet again."

Yes, we will meet again and then life will be forever wonderful, as it was meant to be in the first place.  Everything will be restored.  I really like the thought that Duane is watching and listening and is still very much a part of our lives.  I often think of something I read shortly after he departed.... the idea that since, for those who believed in and trusted Christ for their salvation, "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" and since the Lord Jesus promised to "never leave us or forsake us" - then it follows that, if they are with Him and He is with us, then Duane can't be very far away.


Friday, August 5, 2011

In the Light

Some of Duane's drawings had stories behind them that I knew about; some did not.  Sometimes when I asked him what a particular drawing meant, he didn't know.... or perhaps he didn't want to share it with me.  I understand that artists sometimes draw things that represent how they feel.  It can be a release of emotion.  Sometimes he drew images that he "saw" that meant nothing to him, but they meant a whole lot to another person.  I find it interesting to learn what his art says to others.

This drawing I named "In The Light."  I asked two friends to tell me what they saw in it.  One said, "I see someone who doesn't understand who, what, or why they are... and although they feel afraid, they also secretly desire and believe in Hope."  The drawing made her think of God as searching to and fro with His flashlight (like we did when we were kids, looking for something in the dark), and stopping on this soul....  She felt that this person desired God's light shine on her (or him) and obliterate all the pain, and that this person either wanted this experience or already had it.

Don't you think that describes a lot of people?  People who do not know who, what or why they are?  I just feel like there are a lot of people who don't understand, or believe, that God created them with a specific purpose in mind.  Just like we inherited traits from our natural parents, God, our Heavenly Father, placed a seed, a little bit, some trait of himself in each person, and only by discovering what that is can we become really happy or fulfilled.  The words of an old country song pop into my head here: "I saw the light, I saw the light... no more darkness, no more night.  Now I'm so happy, no sorrow in sight.... Praise the Lord, I saw the light!" 

The thought of God searching "to and fro" brings this to mind:

"For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth
that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His."
2 Chronicles 16:9, NASB

Think of that!  God is looking, searching here and there, for some whose heart is completely His, so that He may strongly support them.  Who wouldn't want to be strongly supported by God?

I have another friend who told me that she has put herself in this particular drawing many times, in her heart.  There's nothing hidden for the person in this drawing.  The glorious light finds her, even in her worst moment, and still covers her.  She thinks of humility, which is the bowing low and allowing God to expose anything in us that is not of Him, and allowing His holiness to shine on us.  Sometimes we think we can hide things from God, but there truly is no place we can go that He isn't.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139:7-12 (NIV)

I hope that this is a comforting thought, not a fearful one.  God is love.  His mercies are new every morning.  The Amplified version of the Bible tells us that God's "compassions fail not... they are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness." (Lam. 3:23.)

May this drawing encourage you to allow God's light to shine on you.
May you believe in Hope.

May the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
May He turn his face toward you
and give you peace.

From Numbers 6:25-26 (NIV)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The key to a successful, meaningful life....

I could have called this post "Thoughts from a big brother."  Chris wrote this a few days after Duane went Home:

More than one person has said to me, "What a die so young."  And I can't help but feel irritated by this imply that the key to a successful, meaningful life is a long one.  None of us are guaranteed a long life and many people live many years and waste too many days.  We should all take a bit from the way Duane lived.  Take the time to know people the way Duane did.  And love and appreciate the differences in people the way Duey did.  Duane meant so much to so many people and we will miss the experiences that we might have shared; however, his life was not wasted but in fact he used it very efficiently, and he will continue to live through the way our lives have changed because of his life...and because of his death.  I think anyone that knew and loved Duane looks at life differently now.  He never earned a college education, he never made sixty thousand dollars a year, he was always broke and we teased him relentlessly about his beat up cars.  But he was a very wealthy young man with vast riches invested in friendship and family, far more wealthy than many ninety-year-old men and women, more wealthy than his thirty-one-year-old big brother.  Duey will continue to live in our memories and the choice is yours and mine as to how we will apply the lessons that he taught us.  ~Chris DuBois

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Duane's Hats

It has been over two months since I wrote a post, and I keep thinking of a suggestion that my sister gave me for something to write about - Duane's hats.  I went back through photos to see what I could find, and here are the results.  Let's see how many you remember seeing him wear. 

This one is purely functional - keeping the head warm!
Duane always loved winter sports.
Does anyone have photos of him at Mt. Tone?

Chicago White Sox?

This one is my favorite - what fun he had with that hat!

This was at Kingdom Bound, Darien Lake.

Duane with two hats!

Steeler's hat - he's really concentrating on something here.

I think that's the Steeler's hat again - he's at the airport
in Newburgh, leaving to visit Darren in Florida.

A fan of Weezer, an American alternative rock band.

Can't quite read this one.

Outside church with Alex, one of my "Job Corps sons."
(Alex, where are you now?)


Stylish, floppy wide-brimmed - above and below.

This was a favorite - the multi-colored knit hat.
Here he is on his 8th grade class trip.
That hat is now in the possession of one of his dear friends.

With a couple of his best friends on a youth trip.

Taken at a family Christmas dinner.

This one is obvious - the guys are goin' huntin'!
Don't they look mean?

Thinking about these hats got me thinking about hats in general.  Hats can be just for fun, they can make a statement, they can keep the sun out of your eyes, bugs or rain off your head, keep your head warm, disguise a bad hair day, or just for style.  Whenever I wear a hat, it is for protection from cold or rain.

When I think of the need for protection, I think of Duane's "Safe" drawing. 

Safe in the Everlasting Arms
The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you.
Deut. 33:27, NLT

Here is where I go for protection from every harm:

Psalm 91:

1 Those who go to God Most High for safety
will be protected by the Almighty.
2 I will say to the Lord, "You are my place of safety and protection.
You are my God and I trust you."

3 God will save you from hidden traps
and from deadly diseases.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you can hide.
His truth will be your shield and protection.
5 You will not fear any danger by night
or an arrow during the day.
6 You will not be afraid of diseases that come in the dark
or sickness that strikes at noon.
7 At your side one thousand people may die,
or even ten thousand right beside you,
but you will not be hurt.
8 You will only watch
and see the wicked punished.

9 The Lord is your protection;
you have made God Most High your place of safety.
10 Nothing bad will happen to you;
no disaster will come to your home.
11 He has put his angels in charge of you
to watch over you wherever you go.
12 They will catch you in their hands
so that you will not hit your foot on a rock.
13 You will walk on lions and cobras;
you will step on strong lions and snakes.

14 The Lord says, "Whoever loves me, I will save.
I will protect those who know me.
15 They will call to me, and I will answer them.
I will be with them in trouble;
I will rescue them and honor them.
16 I will give them a long, full life,
and they will see how I can save."

Those are great and precious promises!  Do I believe them?  Absolutely!  Some might say to me, "But disaster did come near your home."  Yes, it did.  But I do not base my faith on my experiences in life, but rather in God's Word.  Can I answer all the "Why's"?  No.  But I know that if there seems to be a failure with receiving a promise, the failure is on my side and not God's.  I pray this Psalm and the promises in it for my family and loved ones daily now, and I expect them to be kept safe.

Friday, April 22, 2011

You were on his mind....

In the corner of this drawing of Jesus on the cross, Duane shows the empty tomb and the resurrected Christ.  This brings to mind Hebrews 12:2, which says:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The reason that Jesus was able to endure the excruciating pain of the lashes that ripped skin and muscle from his back, the thorns jammed down over his head into his skull, the nails through his hands and feet was because he could look ahead and see the joy that was coming - the joy not only of sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God, but the joy of seeing us reconciled.  Because of what he was doing, he saw us restored to relationship with his Father, no longer bound by sin and guilt and shame.  He knew that he was providing the way for every man, woman and child to be forgiven and restored, back to the way the Father intended for them to be when He created them, no longer ashamed and no longer hiding.

When he said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do," he was thinking not only of those who put him on that cross, but of us.  He knew that people were under the influence of the evil one and did not know the Father's love.  He was making a way for them to be forgiven, and he was making a way for us to be forgiven.  He paid the price for them, and he paid the price for us.

When he said, "It is finished," he was thinking of much more than his earthly life and the pain he was enduring. He was thinking of how man had relinquished his relationship with his Father back in the Garden of Eden when he had listened to the lying voice of the serpent.  Adam and Eve lost their  relationship with the Father, they gave up their dominion, and because of their act, the devil had become the ruler of the world.  But Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil.  He became the "second Adam" and lived a sinless life, in perfect obedience to God, and through His death, burial and resurrection, he was taking dominion back.  The work was finished.  The restoration would be complete.  Man would once again be able to walk in fellowship and communion with God, through Jesus' substitution for us.  The way back to the Father and everlasting life has been provided for us.  All we have to do is believe.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son,
his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be
destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and
lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son
merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was.
He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts
in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since
been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why?
Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind
Son of God when introduced to him.

John 3:16-18, The Message

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Random thoughts on Palm Sunday

My last post was about the events of Palm Sunday, 2003, the day of the accident.  Today is Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011.  In 2003, April 17 fell on a Thursday.  It was the day of the funeral.

Brandon sat by me on the front row.  I wanted it that way.  Brandon called me from the hospital after they told him about Duane.  He was crying, sobbing.  I cried with him.  I assured him that I didn't want him to blame himself.  It wasn't his fault.  It was an accident.

In case there is still anyone who has any doubts, I want it known that I never blamed Brandon.  It was an accident, pure and simple.  They were not speeding.  The speed limit where it happened is 35 mph and they were going about 28 mph, according to the State Police report.  They had not been drinking or taking drugs.  If they did anything wrong, it was being out too late with too little sleep.  They had been working long hours. That night, they had been bowling and then playing hacky sack at a friend's house.  19- and 20-year-olds, hanging out and playing hacky sack.  They must have headed home at about 2:00 a.m., because the accident happened at 2:30.  A deer ran out in front of them.  Brandon meant to hit the brake; he hit the gas.  The vehicle hit a tree.  Duane wasn't wearing a seat belt.

I heard that the rumor the very next day in Hancock was that we were going to sue.  It never occurred to me.  They did nothing wrong.  My main concern, after my own family, was for Brandon - that his life not be ruined.  I didn't want him to live with guilt and regret for the rest of his life, and I was determined to do anything and everything I could to help him.  My family helped, too.  Chris and Darren went to visit Brandon in the hospital.  That was not easy for them, but Brandon and Duane had been friends since they were little boys.  I found out about two years after the accident, that every single day, he wished he could have crawled down that long driveway faster so that he could have gotten help faster.  He lived with guilt every day.  I told him that God didn't want him living like that, and I didn't either.

Brandon was badly hurt - his wrist was smashed and he had broken bones in his leg.  I forget how long he was in the hospital, but he had to get permission from the doctor to come to the funeral.  The doctor didn't want him to come, but he told him he was leaving.  He sat by me and I gave him all the emails to read - all the encouragements, all the things shared by friends.  He sat with our family and listened to all the friends share what Duane meant to them, and to the pastor's message.  I don't remember the details, and I didn't have a video made, but I know everyone learned how to be sure of eternal life.  The place was filled to capacity.  Over the days of visitation and the funeral, Duane and the family had about 400 visitors.  He had many, many friends.  "He was pure love, that kid," said one of them, just last week.

Today, April 17, is also the birthday of a very dear friend of Duane and I.  She was Duane's friend before she was mine.  We only became close a couple of years ago.  We are both convinced that Duane was behind the circumstances of our becoming friends.  That is a very long story, indeed!  She and Duane used to have spirited discussions about spiritual things.  They would argue back and forth and he would be so happy when he would finally prove himself right.  I have always felt rather bad that the funeral fell on her birthday, but she has always been thankful for the good times that she had with him and the things that he taught her.  She thinks it's just not quite right that now he knows for sure the answers to a lot of questions that they used to discuss!

Palm Sunday.  The day that we remember Jesus' triumphant ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.  According to Wikipedia, "The symbolism of the donkey may refer to the Eastern tradition that it is an animal of peace, versus the horse, which is the animal of war. Therefore, a king came riding upon a horse when he was bent on war and rode upon a donkey when he wanted to point out that he was coming in peace. Therefore Jesus' entry to Jerusalem symbolized his entry as the Prince of Peace, not as a war waging king."

Have you ever seen art work by Akiane, child prodigy?  Here is her painting called "Prince of Peace":

I honestly think this is what Jesus looks like.  You can see this painting and her other amazing work at

I have learned that it is possible, though not always easy, to maintain inner peace, no matter what the outward circumstances are.  In fact, I fight very hard to not let anything steal my peace.  It is written that

The God of peace will soon crush satan under your feet.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
Romans 16:20 NLT

That means to me that the way that I win the battles in my life is by staying in peace.  And the way that I found peace is through the peace that only Jesus gives.  These are His words: 

I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace
I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid.
John 14:27 NLT

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The 4:30 a.m. phone call, and radical faith

The things that I will write about today may leave some of my readers thinking that I was two eggs short of a dozen, out of my mind, off my rocker, a bit deluded, or at the very least, not accepting reality. However, I share them because I have never talked about that day in any detail with even my immediate family.  Not that I expect to go anytime soon (I have always told my kids that I expect to live to be a healthy 120 years old!), but I don't want to leave this world without my family and friends really knowing me, whenever that happens.  What better time to write about it than now?  I'm not sure why, but I also want Duane's friends to know about these things.  If you have not read my last post, written yesterday, please read that first.  It will help you understand my worldview, not only that day, but for most of my life.

The phone rang at 4:30 a.m.  It was Palm Sunday, April 13, 2003.  The phone was right next to the bed and I was immediately upright saying, "Hello?"  Brandon's voice said, "We've had an accident."  My immediate thought was, "This is a test."  After all, I had just returned home from three days of learning about the supernatural power of God, and I knew that we have an enemy who wants to immediately rob us of what has been planted in us.

Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown.
As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away
the word that was sown in them.
Mark 4:15 NIV

They were just down the road from me, a small fraction of a mile.  Brandon had been driving.  A deer had run in front of his car, he attempted to hit his brake, he hit the gas instead and the car hit a tree.  I immediately woke Mike up and we drove down there.  The first faces that I saw were those of my sister and brother-in-law.  She had a grave look on her face.  There were quite a few other people already there, and they wouldn't let me go to the car.  I didn't understand why.  Duane was still in it.  Brandon had crawled the long distance of the neighbor's driveway to get to the phone.  He was in the house.  So I paced up and down the road, praying and singing to God.  I knew that no matter what had happened, nothing was too difficult for God.  When the helicopter arrived, I thought it was there to take Duane.  Brandon was injured, but had made it to the house, and so surely an ambulance would take him and the helicopter must be for Duane.  I continued walking and praying.  The helicopter left, but it hadn't come to get Duane.  When at last the state trooper approached Mike and I and said something like, "I'm sorry, your son didn't make it," the only thing that was in my mind, in my whole being, was "I have to get to him to pray for him."  Jesus raised people from the dead, He was doing it today in other nations.  Why not here, why not now?  I was not frantic, I was not panicked, I was not delusional, I was not grief stricken.  I was determined.  I knew that with God, nothing is impossible.

Oh, Sovereign LORD!  You made the heavens and the earth by your
strong hand and powerful arm.  Nothing is too hard for you!
Jer. 32:17, NLT

For nothing is impossible with God.  Luke 1:37

They let me go into the ambulance, where I laid my hands on Duane and prayed a short prayer for him to return to life.  Then my sister and her husband drove Mike and I to Chris' house to tell him and Katie.  Or maybe Mike drove and they followed.  I'll never forget Chris' face as he grabbed the sink to steady himself.  I told him I had to go to the hospital to pray for Duane to come back.  He said, "Mom, he's dead."  I asked my sister if they would take me to the hospital where they were taking Duane, and asked Mike and Chris to go to Darren and Gina.  I came home and called my pastor and told him that Duane was in an accident, that he didn't make it, and I asked for him and anyone who would pray for resurrection to meet me at the hospital.

When we arrived at the hospital, my pastor and I think his wife (not all details are clear in my mind about who was there), and about eight other people from my church had already arrived.  We all believed in miracles.  To put it mildly, the hospital staff probably thought we were strange, but they allowed us to gather around Duane and pray.  They asked me how long it would take us, I said I didn't know. 

We ended up staying at the hospital until about 2:00 in the afternoon.  More and more people came from Palm Sunday service at church and joined us.  The hospital staff let us move from the hallway into the chapel.  When other people wanted to use the chapel to pray, they moved us to a room with a sign on it that said "Classroom."  I thought that was appropriate.  God was teaching us how to believe for resurrection.  Later I read in the hospital notes that we performed some sort of "ritual."  Those words stung.  We weren't a cult.  None of us had ever done anything like that before, but to every single one of us, it seemed completely right, that day.  But in fairness to the person who wrote that, I can understand.  They probably never saw anyone do that, either before or since.

I remember at some point, someone (I think it was my pastor) asked me, "What if Duane doesn't want to come back?"  I wasn't ready to consider that yet, but at 2:00 we all went home.  There were people waiting for me there.  Someone had called Mike from the hospital to ask him how long his wife was going to continue with what she was doing.  He told them "as long as it takes."  I so appreciated when I learned that, that he had supported me, even though he surely didn't understand.

The rest of the next four days are pretty much a blur.  There were people to call, arrangements to make.  I think I was on auto pilot.  But I didn't stop praying for resurrection.  Nothing is too difficult for God.  I called friends who believe in miracles.  When I told my cousin how I was praying, she said that she never knew anyone who did that before, but if there was anyone who would, it would be me, and if there was anyone who would want to try to come back, it would be Duane.  He had radical faith, too.  More than once, he had tried to walk on water.  With his shoes on.  After all, if he had taken his shoes off, he wouldn't have been in faith, would he??  Duane's friend and wife came from North Carolina to pray for resurrection.  They went to the funeral home a half hour before each viewing to pray and believe.  Duane had intended to go to NC with them the following week, and he and Duane had made an agreement with each other, that if either of them died, they would pray for each other's resurrection.  We prayed for a miracle right through the day of the funeral, which was held on Thursday.  We even believed God was giving us signs that we were on the right track.  It was Easter week - what better time for a resurrection?

Obviously, our prayers weren't answered the way we wanted them to be.  But you will be surprised at what I learned a couple weeks later.  Things were happening in the unseen realm, and God gave someone a peek.

So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze
on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4:18, NLT

Believing for miracles

Eight years ago today, April 12, I was at the last day of a conference called "2003 Unity & Prayer Gathering" at New Life Worship Center in Smithfield, RI.  The speakers were Mike Shea, Dutch Sheets and Bill Johnson.  I went to that conference mainly because I had just heard Bill Johnson for the first time at a "Catch the Fire" conference in Virginia Beach in February.  Duane went with me to that one.  Bill Johnson's church, Bethel Church, is in Redding, CA.  They expect the miraculous there, and they see it.  Their young ministry students go to shopping malls looking for sick people to pray for, and the people they pray for are healed much of the time.  In fact, a close friend of mine that I had known since I was a teenager was healed of prostate cancer when Bill Johnson prayed for him.  Listening to and learning from Bill was such a faith-building experience that I couldn't wait for more, and when I learned he was going to be in Rhode Island in April, I decided to go.  Duane enjoyed the Virginia Beach conference as much as I did, but for a reason that I don't remember any more, he couldn't go with me to Rhode Island.

John and Carol Arnott from Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship were the hosts of the "Catch the Fire" conference in February.  TACF is where a sovereign outpouring of the Holy Spirit began in 1994 and revival exploded into meetings that lasted for many years.  Catch the Fire Toronto came to be known as a place where God was meeting with His people.  Duane and I experienced some of that first-hand when we went to the Catch the Fire Conference in Virginia Beach.  It was awesome.  You could feel the presence of  God the minute you walked into the room.  I'll never forget that.

I always had something in me that caused me to believe literally the things that I read in the Bible.  It was and is in my spiritual DNA to believe that way.  If I saw it in the Bible, then I believed I could have it.  If God did it for people back then, He would do it now.  If Jesus healed when He walked this earth, then He would still heal today.  And if He raised people from the dead then, He would still do that now.  And to reinforce that belief in me even more, at about the same time in 2003, I had learned of a man in Nigeria who was resurrected from the dead at a meeting with Reinhard Bonnke.  His wife simply would not give up believing for him to be resurrected because she felt that God had given her the promise that "women received their loved ones back again from death" as written in Hebrews 11:35.  Signs, wonders and miracles are much more common in other parts of the world then they are here in our nation. I think that's because their mindset is much different than ours.  They are more likely than those with Western minds to believe in the supernatural.  Or maybe it's because they don't have money or doctors available like we do, so God is their first and often only source.  They have to believe God for miracles.

Since about 1998, I had been going to conferences and meetings like these two I've mentioned, and to places like Calvary Pentecostal Campground in Ashland, VA.  That was another place where I could feel God's presence, even as soon as I drove onto the property.  Testimonies of people who had experienced God's miracle power and presence were common.  I saw miracles, and so did Duane.  In fact, Ashland, VA is where God touched him and revealed Himself to him in a personal way.  He had had a hard time believing the things that I told him I saw there, and so I challenged him to go see for himself, and he did.  I always had an insatiable desire to see more, learn more, experience more of God.  The things I saw and heard at these conferences were like what I read about in the Bible.  I was convinced that that was how life was supposed to be lived - as a supernatural experience, because God is a supernatural God.

So, after three days of worship, experiencing the presence of God and hearing teaching about God and faith in action today, I came home on April 12, 2003 filled with faith and expectancy, and anticipating sharing what I had experienced with friends at church the next day, Palm Sunday.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Eternity in our hearts....

This week is the anniversary of Duane’s Homegoing. I never say “death,” because although his earthly body died, the real Duane did not die. I never say that we “lost” him, because we didn’t lose him. We know where he is. I say “Homegoing” because we were all created for eternity and Heaven is our real home. I think that even those people who say they don’t believe in an afterlife have to struggle against something deep within themselves to say that. We were created with eternity in our hearts.

I went for a walk this morning. I found myself standing on a bridge, gazing at a spot filled with childhood memories. It was the big rock in the creek on what was my Grandma and Grandpa Lind’s property. As I was standing there, that phrase, “eternity in our hearts” popped into my head. I remember playing on that big rock when I was a child. I must have been just a teensy one, because I remember fishing with a stick, a string and a safety pin on the end of the string. I’m sure I must have taken our kids there to play, although I don’t have any specific memories of doing that. I know I have taken the grandkids there. It’s a wonderful spot for a picnic. Then I was thinking of my grandparents being there, and certainly my dad must have spent time there. I wonder if our great- and great-great grandchildren will play there too. I wonder if that little spot will still be there, on the restored and renewed Earth, in an even more beautiful condition, sometime in the distant future. I wonder what it was like at the very beginning, the beginning of time, at the Creation, before the fall and before all creation began to moan.

I wonder, I wonder, I wonder. Even as a young person, before I had come to real faith in God on my own, and when I was still believing because my parents did, I wondered about eternal things. It just didn’t make any sense to my young mind that all of this beauty could be here just by chance. I just had an instinctive “knowing” that there was something more, something much more grand, some eternal purpose, some Hand at work. I couldn’t see the whole picture, but I knew there was more. That’s what I mean by “eternity in our hearts.”

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.
He has planted eternity in the human heart,
but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work
from beginning to end.
Ecc. 3:11 - New Living Translation

I don’t know if I ever even asked my questions out loud. Maybe I just wondered. I wondered about eternity, I wondered about how to be sure of heaven, because I just knew that was real. I wondered about the things I was taught. I wondered about Jesus. I wondered how His death 2,000 years ago could have anything to do with me. But God knew my thoughts and my questions and He knew I had a sincere heart that just wanted to know truth. In time, He answered the important questions, even without my asking. That’s because He knew my thoughts. Important questions about the meaning of life, asked from a sincere heart will be answered by a loving Father.

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.
Psalm 139:1-4 (NLT)

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.
Keep on seeking, and you will find.
Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives.
Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone
who knocks, the door will be opened.
You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread,
do you give them a stone instead?
Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!
So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father
give good gifts to those who ask him.
Matthew 7:7-11 (NLT)

Never stop wondering and seeking. Eternity is in your heart.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Duane's Love of Laughter

Like most modern mothers, I had to work outside the home while we were raising our family.  One of the people I relied on for child care for Duane was Mary Hazen.  Mary recently shared a funny story with me about Duane.  She thought she would use making the kids eat Brussels sprouts as a disciplinary measure.  I vaguely remembered the incident, but Mary filled in details for me, as follows:

Duane was one of "my children," and it was an exceptionally roudy day for them all, must be my sign, Scorpio... I don't get mad, I get even! I made Brussels sprouts with lunch. As the other children were crunching up their faces at the sight, they were waiting for Duane to handle this situation..... and handle he did.  To my dismay, Duane yelped, "Oh goody, but do you have any lemon juice to put on them?" and he commenced to wolf down and even share this new delight, flavored just right, with the rest of the boys, who loved the adventure of trying something new!  They would have done anything Duane did - he, their hero of mischief that day. I simply sat in my seat with my jaw hung low. 1 point = Duane, 0 point = Mary.

This looks like an appropriate photo for our "hero of mischief!"

My dear friend Brenda Lewis recently wrote these words about Duane's love of laughter:

Duane was gifted with art and also with the love of laughter. He was always laughing, which became contagious. He could even make us laugh when something really wasn't funny, like when our dog "went" on the floor. He laughed and laughed until we were all laughing. I suggested that he could clean it up but that made him laugh even harder. We couldn't help but laugh too! Duane really helped us to make light of the small stuff and enjoy life and the good things in life, like: live, love and laugh. It is after all a merry medicine that he gave us. We miss him and it gives us a peace knowing that he is in paradise and we will see him again someday and I'm sure when we meet again, he will be laughing!

Duane DuBois and Scott Lewis, causing laughter!

Bren, I do believe you are absolutely right about that.  I suspect he's laughing now, even more joyfully than ever before!

A merry heart does good, like medicine,
      But a broken spirit dries the bones.
Proverbs 17:22 (NKJV)

or  "The Message" puts it this way:

A cheerful disposition is good for your health;
   gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Belated Valentine's Day thoughts about love....

This was supposed to be my Valentine’s Day post, and it’s three weeks past Valentine’s Day. It’s never too late to talk about love, though. Duane made this Valentine’s Day card for me, I would guess in about second or third grade. It says “I Love You Mom. To Mom from Duane.” This card is such a treasure. He was, he is, such a treasure. He loved and accepted people just the way they were, and he wanted people to accept him just the way he was.

We sometimes use the word “love” very loosely. I love my mom. I love this dress. I love pizza. I love God. I love the color red. I love lilacs. Seems like we should use different words when we talking about our feelings for things as different as pizza and God. I really like pizza. My favorite color is red. I enjoy the way this dress makes me feel when I wear it. Maybe we should simply reserve the word “love” for people and God. Well, and maybe for our pets.  :-)
There are different kinds of love. Brotherly affection. Best friends. Love of parents for children and children for parents. Love for our family pet. All of our love for people should be unconditional, because God loves us just the way we are.  His love is unconditional. Unfortunately, human love is often conditional. We don’t always accept people just the way they are. Sometimes we think we know how we could improve them. Even with our children, when we as parents are trying to raise them and train them, they need to always know that we love them - no matter what.  They need to know that our love for them is not based on their performance.

Last week at GriefShare, a grief recovery support group that I facilitate, we were talking about how as children, many people heard something like, “God is going to get you if you do such-and-such.” So they grew up with the idea that God was this big being up in the sky who was watching and holding a big stick, just waiting for the opportunity to strike them with it. So every time something bad happened to them later in life, they thought God was punishing them. They think God gave them that sickness because they did something wrong. Or that God caused that accident as a means of punishment. That is so not true.

People sometimes base how they treat us on whether we are perceived as a success or a failure.  With God, it doesn't matter.  He isn’t going to love us any differently. He loves us 100% no matter what. His love never discriminates. I’ve heard it said that you can’t do anything to make Him love you more, and you can’t do anything to make Him love you less. I believe that. He is not always pleased with our choices, and He will convict us about things we need to change, but His love never changes.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.
Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for
today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us
from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 NLT

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Birthday Celebrations ... and Unconditional Love

Today is Duane’s 28th birthday, and I’ve been thinking about his birthday celebrations over the years.  Our family always celebrated our boys' birthdays with parties every year.

When he was little, we had birthday parties at home and had his little friends come to play and enjoy cake and ice cream. Just look at those adorable faces!

When he got older, we gathered all the friends at a place like “Fun & Games” in Honesdale to eat pizza, play miniature golf and all the other games of skill and luck that kids enjoy. That’s where his 13th birthday party was.  Looks like this was an all-guy party.  Check out that hat Duane is wearing!

By the time we were celebrating his 16th birthday, his favorite place to eat was Red Lobster, so that’s where we decided to go that year.

Duane always loved “pushing the envelope.” You know, he liked to explore his boundaries and see just how far he could go. He was very creative in the ways he did it. That should have never surprised me; after all, he was just born naturally creative!

I don’t remember how old he was when he started wanting to wear black nail polish. I thought that was just horrible. Evil. Nasty. Yuck. Demonic, even! (I’ve come a long way, Baby! I even wear it on occasion myself.) I would forbid him to leave the house “like that,” and he would obediently remove it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he borrowed some from a friend after he got away from the house, though.

He wanted to die his hair pink. I said No, but I let him go blonde. In fact, I was probably the one who colored it for him. I actually liked the way it looked.

He wanted body piercings. He wasn’t the first of our sons to want his ears pierced, and I had come to the point where I realized this was just the fashion, so that was okay. But when he expressed the desire to have his tongue pierced, I said something like, “Over my dead body!” His father’s reaction would probably have been even more expressive.

So, his 16th birthday came and we went to celebrate at Red Lobster. Mike and I were sitting on one side of the table, and Duane (now blonde) and his friend were on the other side. At some point about mid-way through the meal, Duane was talking, and I noticed something shiny in the middle of his tongue. I was furious! But what could I do?? There we were, enjoying a lobster dinner, celebrating his birthday. I couldn’t very well throw a “Mama hissy fit!” But I think I did utter something like, “What is that on your tongue?” through my teeth, while maintaining a look of civility on my face. I’m not sure how the rest of dinner went, or how long it took me to cool off, but I don’t think it was too long. After all, when a two or three-year-old is willfully disobedient, you can spank their butt or give them time out, but when the child is 16 and working, making his own money, what are you supposed to do? By that age, you have taught them just about all you can teach them; by the age of seven, their personalities and wills are pretty much shaped. As they have grown older, you have been giving them more and more responsibility, hopefully getting them ready to go on their own, and Duane was close to that point by the time he was 16. I might have grounded him from doing something, but he would always do his very best to talk me out of it, sometimes successfully.

No matter what our kids did that was against our rules or wishes, and despite the fact that we had to try to administer age-appropriate discipline, we always loved them unconditionally. When the discipline was over, we would continue to do our utmost to meet their needs, and their wants too. There was nothing they could have done wrong that would have made us love them less. And there was no way they could have performed to make us love them more.  We were not perfect parents; we made mistakes.  So I don’t know if we always did a good job of letting them know how much we loved them, but we did.

God is our Heavenly Father, and He is perfect.  Although He disciplines us when we “push the envelope,” or downright break the rules, His love is unconditional. Sometimes we have the idea that God is angry and is just watching for us to do something wrong. Some people think that His discipline includes giving us sickness or causing bad things to happen. God is love, and love does not do that. If Mike and I had the ability, would we have caused something bad to happen to our sons when they disobeyed? Of course not!

If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing. You're at least decent to your own children. So don't you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?  Matthew 7:9-11, The Message

God’s discipline often consists simply of allowing us to reap the consequences of our actions. For instance, God says we are to love people. If we are trying to follow Him, we will have a guilty conscience when we’ve been unkind to someone. Then we have to apologize, and that hurts our pride. He says we are to obey the laws of the land. So, we might get a speeding ticket when our lead foot gets the best of us. We have to pay the fine and there goes some money that could have been spent on something we wanted. He wants us to take care of our bodies, and bad food choices can result in poor health. We learn by our mistakes and grow in maturity and obedience, just as our children did.

But no matter what we do or don’t do, God loves us outrageously, extravagantly, unconditionally, and that will never change.

How would our lives change if we really believed that?

God told them, "I've never quit loving you and never will.
Expect love, love, and more love!”
Jeremiah 31:3, The Message

I'm absolutely convinced that nothing - nothing living or dead,
angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low,
thinkable or unthinkable - absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
Romans 8:39, The Message