Friday, July 20, 2007

I took the Long way Home... Lost

A while back I posted the first bit of a book my Brother Chris wrote and I help with on caving...

Here is the real story of my first caving trip... and our near death experiment. If you notive my necklace some day at church you will see my token... So here it is written in my brothers perspective:

We had managed to make it up both of our “leaps of faith” with each others help. The climbs were near impossible with our injuries and fatigue. We had drank water from the bottom of one of the water chasms but we were sweating so much from exertion that we were steaming more water than we could take in. At the junction we collapsed on our resting spot unable to move any further. We had explored and re-explored all areas enough that we felt the only way out was through the collapse dome.

Our escape had to be in the collapse dome also, because neither of us had the energy to travel to the other areas again. Death’s slumber was upon us and we could do nothing but rest if we were to have any chance of survival. By this time we had been in each area six or more times and had come back to rest. One definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and getting the same result, but expecting another outcome.

This time as we curled up, we knew it would probably be our last. As our pulses began to slow we seemed only able to talk in whispers. I told Curt again just how sorry I was. He said that he placed no blame on me and that if this was his time to go, that his heart was ready and eager to meet his Lord and Savior. Curt asked if I was sure that Heaven was my next step also. I said, “Yes”. I explained again how in the cave I am always 100% sure. I reminded him of my thoughts and asked him if his were the same; that while in the cave I am in constant awe of the Great Creator and it is the one place where I felt totally in tune with the Spirit. That in the cave I understand the term “praying without ceasing”. That in the cave I am in constant, silent prayer. Even my short breaths breathe in and out to the tune of the hymns of old, mostly “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty”. Not a step is taken without a silent “Thank you” to God for the last step.

It was at this point that I believe Curt finally gave in to the fact that we were in a real death situation. He mentioned that he had been holding on to the hope that I had known where the exit was all along and that I just wanted to give him a “total” caving adventure and would now say that it was all a test and show him the way out. He didn’t know and could not imagine how bad I would have wanted that to be true also.

Our worries at this time were not for us, but for our families. We talked about how our wives would react. The denial of our death would be the hardest for them to overcome. How could they give up on us if our bodies were never found? We discussed our lack of anger and emotion. We were overcome with an overwhelming sense of peace, that somehow this was God’s will. We just couldn’t understand what benefit or lesson God could use to benefit our families. Our families on both sides were of strong Christian backgrounds. Our father and brother were pastors, our families were Christians, plus how could it be God’s will to take two sons when He had plenty of previous opportunities to take mine. If I died, it would be my life taken while doing something I loved. I accepted the risk of caving. Why would He want my brother also?

I learned from the Bible in the book of Job that the most important thing to say and truly believe that it is God’s will to be done, not ours. I told Curt in a whisper “To Him be all glory and praise.” Curt said that he wanted us both to pray out loud, and he began to pray. I listened to his prayer as he said “Lord, we need your help. We are lost and cannot find our way. Our energy and hope have depleted. We have tried every avenue, but cannot find our way. Without You there is no hope. Please light our path and show us the way. It is in You that we place our hope and trust. Show us the way and give us the strength to take Your path. Thy will be done.”

Curt then said I should also pray. I told him that I had no fancy words, but that I had a prayer that I prayed every day. He wanted to hear it, so I prayed my simple prayer I had memorized. “Dear Lord, please forgive me for everything I’ve done against Your will up to this very second. I’m sorry for my sins. Please help me live a life that is honorable to You. Help me to shine like Joseph in the workplace and please help me stand out like Joshua at home.” Then I added “No matter what the outcome, to You be
all glory, honor and praise.” It was silent for a moment as I fought the lump in my throat as I said “Please take care of my family”.

Curt asked if I would pray the “Lord’s prayer” with him, so we recited together: “Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hollowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen”.

It is amazing how each sentence seemed to apply even to our situation. We felt alone. His will would be done. What we wouldn’t give for a simple piece of bread. Deliver us from evil. On Earth, In Earth? Our only hope was in the physical salvation of Jesus Christ. Only He could show us the way.

Curt said that he had a secret that he might as well tell me since this seemed to be our end. He told me that his wife, Mandy was pregnant. That they were going to wait three months at least before the announcement as she had previously miscarried and had lost the last child. We felt some comfort in knowing we would see our families again, even if it was to be in Heaven.

We talked about what options our two families would have to survive. All of our parents would be supportive enough to take them in. I even thought that with Paula’s two degrees, she could work and Mandy could watch the kids. Either way they would probably end up closer to family, but could become good friends as a result. Somehow we knew that if this was God’s will; that He would provide a solution.

“Just be quiet and rest now” I said. We were both too tired to even talk. “It won’t hurt, we will just go to sleep” I said to him. He grabbed my hands and held them close to his chest. My chest shook from a couple of silent sobs, but was covered up by the shakes. My body was too dehydrated to shed a tear. Tears were not necessary though for we had been given the gift of peace, and peacefully we went to sleep.

Or so I thought. Curt stayed awake mentally enough to keep praying.
These are his words from a letter he wrote our parents:

“That is when I began to pray. Pray for peace; pray for help; just pray for a way out.

Not too many people can say that they have ever had a time in their life when they knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they were going to die. I have. We both had given in to the fact that we were going to die down there, but we may as well keep moving and going as long as we possibly could.

If you remember, we didn’t have our packs of food, water or emergency blankets with us. We were licking water off of rocks just to wet our throats. Yet through it all, there was a peaceful feeling in my soul.

Even when I thought we would surely die, I knew God was in control. You know the Bible says, ‘Ask, and it shall be given unto you’. Do you know how unrealistic that is? If you were to ask for a cheeseburger, would you get it? Not unless you were driving to that fast food joint yourself with money in your pocket. If we are not in the right line with God our prayers will seem to be unanswered. So how do we get in the ‘right line’ with God?

I found two things in the dark that made me calm. One was a story of a man at the bottom of a ladder that leads to Heaven with Jesus sitting at the top. Jesus looks down and says, “Come to me, but you can’t use the ladder.” The man sits down and for years does nothing, but thinks through all of the world’s knowledge of flight, religions, etc.., anything that we know on earth to try and figure out how to do this. Finally, in utter frustration, he throws up his hands and says, “I can’t do it!” At that very moment, Jesus reached down and said, “That’s it!” and brings him up. The point was WE are nothing. We are pointless. We can’t do it. There is no power in ourselves. Yet, there is a power in God that can move mountains. When we realize that it is not US showing people God that we reflect Jesus like the moon reflects the sun, only then will people be changed. “Not by works that any man should boast…”

The second thing that I found was this: We don’t ask right. Once we have given all to Jesus we then are prepared to ask. What does the Bible say? “Ask in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…” We can’t go near God. We have no right to ask anything of God. But through the High Priest and Mediator Jesus Christ, who we can hide behind, we can go into the Father’s presence and ask all things.

I thought of these while in the cave that we thought was our tomb.

Isn’t that ironic on God? As if to say “Give it to ME and let ME show you how to get out. That way you can glorify ME and not yourself.

The next time when we went to rest, for five minutes or more I kept repeating, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, show us the way out” – over and over, again and again.

At one point, when I was praying down there, my brother said, “You realize, greater men than us have asked for a miracle and not gotten one.” So why would God choose to hear our prayers?

This one thing, I know: when life has you down, think – “I am alive!” I know I will because I have seen death and felt its talons gripping my life. I have watched as the life drained from my body. I once was dead, but now I am resurrected! To what reason and for what purpose is for God to know and to reveal to me in His time. Until then, I will tell the world of Him, and the mighty, marvelous and miraculous power of prayer.”

Soon after, he was calling my name. I woke and sat up in a daze. I wasn’t sure if we were dead or alive. We agreed to try one more, small trip into the collapse dome. We got up, stumbled around, but couldn’t move enough to walk more than 15 to 20 feet before giving up. We couldn’t stay alert enough to know which direction to go and were worried about looking our way even 20 feet back to our resting spot. We were at near total mental breakdown. We couldn’t keep a thought long enough to even complete a single sentence. All we could do is look at each other in the dim haze of our run down LED lamps and say “what?” and “I don’t know.” I would try to say something, but could only mumble unintelligible sounds not remembering what I intended to say. With no mental or physical stamina we stumbled back to lie down. This time we both slept.

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