Saturday, December 23, 2017
Will this be the last Christmas?: A wooden cross on the highway
Pastor Bob Tousey
A few weeks ago, I was a passenger in a car traveling on northbound Interstate 95 approaching the exit for Route 100 in Howard County, Maryland. As I was looking upon the grassy median, I started to wonder—why wasn't there a wooden cross situated on the side of the road with my name on it? I realize to some; this might appear to be a strange question-- mainly since I am alive, and a wooden cross often represents a scene of a fatal car accident. Being alive at that moment, for me, was indeed a mystery.
So, please, allow me to rewind time for just a moment as I explain an incident that occurred on October 8, 2017, at about 8:30 p.m. On this evening, I was driving my car on 95 North. All of the sudden, for reasons unknown, my car went out of control. The next memory is of a paramedic treating me. It all happened in a matter of seconds, I had just gotten on 95, and I was traveling at the posted speed limit, and the road was clear. Despite traveling the speed limit and having a clear roadway, my car was spinning out of control, and my last memory was a white SUV passing me. My only thought was "this is not going to end well." I do not recall impact or being extracted from my car, but I do recall that brief moment of clarity in the ambulance. This brief moment of allowed me the opportunity to identify a familiar face of the paramedic treating me. I recalled her face from my previous ministry as a Chaplain for the Howard Country Fire and Rescue. Just as quickly as I regained consciousness, I lost it again, only to wake up at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma.
As I had awakened again, I was greeted by a Maryland State Trooper. I was very disoriented, but the conversation with the trooper I recall very well. The trooper commented that he was happy to have the ability to speak with me. You see, the trooper explained that from the appearance of the accident scene he did not think I was going to be alive. From the pictures, it was evident this accident was significant, but fortunately for me, I only sustained six broken bones, and I was spared from having any permeant injuries. The best news of all is that my injuries did not require surgery. However, my injuries were severe enough that I was admitted for five weeks of medical treatment and rehabilitation.
After speaking to my pastor on the phone, I explained to him that Jesus stood between me and the tractor trailer. My pastor being the clever and quick-witted person that he is stated, "You should have let Jesus drive." If, I may, please let me share some of the history of my pastor's statement. For those that are not familiar, this accident was not the first time I had dodged death or serious injury. You see, twenty years earlier—just a few miles away from the above location on Route 100 West, I was travelling in a car on westbound route 100, and I saw a car from the eastbound side jump over the median and into westbound traffic. My initial thought was that death was on the horizon, so I closed my eyes, I held on tight and uttered to myself, "Jesus, help me." Jesus responded by diverting the collision and my life was spared. As I describe this experience, I always refer to Carrie Underwood's song, Jesus take the wheel, and fortunately for me "Jesus, took the wheel." Jesus is the only way to explain how this potential tragedy was avoided. My testimony concerning this experience is available on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AabAbkWSamI.
I must wonder--why God chose to spare me on multiple occasions, yet others are not so blessed. I may never know the exact reason why, but as we are taught in the Book of Job, only God sees the whole picture and has a complete understanding of His plan. Often, we may never understand why life unfolds the way it does, but I have to remember that God has a plan and a purpose for my life, and all of our lives. All I can do is be open to that plan and be willing to do what God calls me to do. I pray each day for the Holy Spirit to guide me towards that plan and for the ability to carry it out in a manner that honors and glorifies God.
I began this story by sharing how God has shown me grace and mercy throughout my life. I am far from a perfect person and have fallen to temptation, but each time God has extended me grace. For this, I am eternally grateful. I recognize that each day is a gift from God and that I must treasure it as such. May God bless each of you reading this, and I encourage you to improve those strained relationships in your life and to use this Christmas season as a time to repair those relationships, while you have the opportunity. Most importantly, invite loved ones over, hug them, and tell them how much you love them. One thing I realize, more so, than ever is that this life can change in a second. Don't live it with regrets, because you never took the opportunity to repair those relationships. I say this with all sincerity that you cannot take life for granted because this might be the last opportunity you have to celebrate Christmas with them. Celebrate the birth of Jesus by reconciling with others, show them love and grace. God bless each of you and have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Friday, April 7, 2017
Movie Review: The Case for Christ
I had the pleasure of viewing the movie “The Case for Christ”, which is based on Lee Strobel’s, bestselling book of the same name. The movie was very well done. The acting was excellent, the plot interesting and frankly much better than I was expecting. I read the book and found it interesting and enlightening. However, when I first heard it was being made into a movie, I frankly expected a boring documentary that was heavy on detail and low on entertainment. Happily, that is not the case.
The movie is rated PG, primarily due to the medical description of the crucifixion and incidental smoking. If your children are mature and have an interest I would not hesitate to recommend that you allow them to see it with you.
The movie is a true story which occurred in the early 1980’s. The styles depicted in the movie, Lee’s Z-28 Camaro, and his love of Schlitz beer sets the scene well.
The movie has a great plot revolving around Lee’s family and work life. There is a sub plot involving a police shooting and there are scenes of the realistic struggles in Lee’s family life. The characters depict real people who care for and love one another. While Lee gets emotional at times there are not any bitter adversarial scenes that would make a viewer uncomfortable.
Lee Strobel was an award winning investigative reporter and legal editor at the Chicago Tribune and a devote atheist.
Lee’s journey begins while he, his wife and young daughter are in a restaurant celebrating his recent promotion to legal editor. His daughter begins to choke. Fortunately, there is a nurse nearby who provides emergency assistance and saves his daughter. As Lee’s wife thanks the nurse, she responds that Jesus’ had a hand in this as she and her husband had plan to eat at another restaurant but they felt the need to eat at this one. This comment had a profound effect on Strobel’s wife and caused her to explore Christianity and eventually give her life to Jesus. Having a born again Christian wife did not sit well with Lee and he began a journey to prove that there was no reasonable basis for Christian beliefs.
Lee’s journey included him seeking out leading experts in archeology, history, theology and medicine. The experts included a fellow atheist, a Catholic Priest and Protestant scholars. Lee realized that the true question revolved around the Resurrection. If the Resurrection occurred as believed then there was a solid basis for Christianity. If it did not the whole basis for Christianity is destroyed.
While the movie is not as detailed as the book, it does provide the key facts to support the Christian belief in the Resurrection.
The title gives away the ending as Lee concludes that the argument for Christianity is strong and gives his life to Jesus. He has retired from journalism and now is a teaching Pastor, teacher and writer.
This movie is very well balanced. It provides Christians with a road map to strengthen their faith. Agnostics some points to consider and I believe atheists will enjoy the plot and how it is presented. I highly recommend this movie for everyone. I consider this the best movie of its type. God bless and have a great Easter.
Friday, March 3, 2017
Last night I had the pleasure of watching the movie premiere of "The Shack", which is based on William Paul Young's novel of the same name.
"The Shack" tells the story of a fictional father, named Mack, who is struggling with the brutal murder of his young daughter, Missy, while on a family camping trip. One touching moment in the movie was the night before her murder when Missy asks Mack to pray with her to Papa. Papa is the family's affectionate name for God the Father.
While the family is a church going Christian family and has the strong support of their church community, Mack is very angry with God and his older daughter, Kate, blames herself for the tragic death of Missy.
While the rest of the family is away Mack receives a mysterious invitation to the Shack in which his daughter was killed and it was signed Papa.
He decided to make the trip and spends a fictional weekend with the Trinity. While there was considerable artistic license taken in portraying the Trinity, the story of the weekend teaches some very important lessons.
One of the lessons is that God is a loving God who is pained by human suffering. That there are times we must go through pain in order to grow and become the person God intends for us to be. There is a scene were God the Father is encouraging Mack to forgive Missy's murderer. You can see how this is obviously painfully for Mack. This was, however, very necessary for his own healing and for him to eventually help his older daughter, Kate, free herself for the guilt she felt over Missy's death.
We also learn that we can accomplish things with Jesus walking beside us that we could never accomplish on our own and that the Holy Spirit is there to guide us. We are also shown examples of free will, reconciliation and that Heaven is a beautiful place in which there is no pain, no suffering and no words that mean goodbye.
After the fictional weekend, we see a miraculous change in Mack's life and how he is able to help Kate release herself from the blame that she carries for Missy's death. This change results in the family once again being joyful and using their joy in the face of tragedy to glorify God.
The key to enjoying this movie and getting the most out of it is to realize that it is a work of Christian fiction and not a theological work that claims biblically accuracy. Those who have read my reviews in the past know that I have been critical of other movies that stray from the truth of the Bible. The distinction is that those movies attempted to present themselves as an accurate portrayal of biblical stories. The Shack makes no such attempt. It is a fictional movie with an inspiring message.
In my view this movie was well done with wonderful acting and tells a compelling story of grief and healing. It demonstrates how healing can be used to glorify God.
Some have criticized the movie as suggesting that it ignored the wrath of God. I did not see it that way. While talk of hell and damnation were missing, I didn't take that as a suggestion that hell does not exist. Rather that it was omitted because it was not consistent with the story's message of love, forgiveness, redemption and healing. There are other platforms where the discussion of God's wrath would be appropriate, this in my opinion, was not such a platform.
What I particularly liked was that The Shack emphasizes the Trinity. While there is considerable artistic license taken with the portrayal of the Trinity, which some might take issue with, I am pleased that the Trinity was not ignored. I was also pleased that the movie acknowledged that the Trinity is three in one, an important theological concept which is easily misunderstood. In my next blog post I will discuss the Trinity for those who wish a deeper discussion of this important theological concept.
My bottom line take away from this movie is similar to the take away I got after reading the Book of Job for the first time. God's knowledge is infinite, while ours is limited. There are times that we must be brought through pain to achieve what God has planned for us and which allows us to better glorify God.
I was also encouraged that our faith can not be based on what happens in the lifetime we have on earth. The ultimate blessings that God has planned for us, His children, occur in our eternal life, not in our earthly life.
Overall, I was very pleased with this movie and feel it will provide Christians with a great way to open up discussions regarding pain and suffering. It will also force those of us in ministry to be more prepared to discuss the difficult questions regarding why God allows pain and suffering.