Sunday, November 09, 2008

Radio interview on Pilgrim Radio

Bill Feltner, of Pilgrim Radio, recently interviewed me about my close encounter with lightning last summer. I mention it here because I continue to receive inquiries about my experience and many encouragements from people who have prayed for me. Bill asked me to describe what happened and give an update on how I am doing today. By God's grace, I am doing very well with very few residual effects.

The interview will be broadcast 3 times on stations reaching several western states. It may also be heard online at the following times:

Monday, November 10, 2008, Eastern Time
5:04 AM
3:04 PM

Tuesday, November 11, 2008, Eastern Time
12:04 AM

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Lightning-survivor-blogging

More from the geniuses at Despair.com. In light of Greg Welty's astute observation about the uniqueness of this blog--featuring the only LSB (lightning-survivor-blogging) on the internet--I found this poster especially appropriate. It would probably also look good in my study.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Returning Home

The last 6 weeks have been memorable for my family and me, to say the least. Donna, my oldest child and I hope to arrive home tonight after a wonderful experience in Alaska. The Reformation Conference was very encouraging, and the opportunity to fellowship with pastors and serious-minded church leaders has left me very hopeful about what the Lord is doing in South-Central Alaska.

Many of the stories that I heard about the difficulty of ministry are similar to those that are told by pastors and serious believers all over. Spiritual lethargy, doctrinal ignorance and cultural Christianity are maladies that know no geographic, ecclesiastical or confessional boundaries. The need for reformation and revival is widespread.

Yet, the signs of reformation can be found in Alaska as well as elsewhere. The very fact that a Reformation Society has been formed and concerted efforts to promote fellowship around the Gospel is indication of that.

Alaskan churches face some peculiar challenges, which is true of churches everywhere. The rugged individualism and "can-do" spirit that is vitally important to living in an environment that can be harsh and demanding. While we were there, we went from having 17 hours of daylight to 16 hours. Days are shortening by more than 5 minutes with each sunset. In the depth of winter, only a few hours of daylight will appear each 24 hours. Anchorage has witnessed several bear attacks this year--one leaving a 15 year old girl several injured by a Grizzly.

Individualism can lead a man to think that he is self-sufficient in every area of his life. The Gospel must be proclaimed with a special sensitivity to deconstructing this delusion. I have been encouraged by the believers that I met who are committed to doing just that.

I have been very conscious of the Lord's help as I have returned to limited ministry activities. And I know that this help has been given in response to the prayers of God's people. As I reflect on what the Lord has done and how He has done it, I am humbled and very grateful for His grace that has been communicated to me through so many means.

As I begin to transition to my regular responsibilities, I am very hopeful about the future. As Greg Welty and others have challenged me, I don't want to "waste my lightning." Pray that God will help me at just this point.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thanks for your prayers

It has been a month since I had my up close and personal encounter with lightning. These last 4 weeks have been filled new experiences. Some of those were mentioned in Donna's update a couple of weeks ago. Others have been harder to articulate. About a week after the strike I was able to write the following to my church family.
Most of my thinking has been somewhat productive. Some of my thoughts, however, have been pretty dark. I have been reminded of Bunyan's Faint-heart, Mistrust and Guilt, who, if once they get in a man, know how to lay low both Mr. Great-Grace as well as Mr. Little-Faith. They have become familiar enemies the last few days.

I am not angry at God. I am not disappointed with Him. Nor do I think He had nothing to do with this. The events of early Tuesday morning are so unusual that it is impossible not to see the sovereign hand of God at work orchestrating every event.
As I have told many people since that night, my first conscious thought was, "God has done this." I don't think it is enough simply to say that He allowed it. I believe He orchestrated it. As I also wrote to the church,
The same God who sent the bolt of lightning through my body is the One who sent His Son to cross. I have no reason to doubt His mercy and grace.
Those thoughts have been increasingly confirmed to me over the ensuing days. By His grace I was able to attend our church's morning worship services this past Sunday and able to address, albeit very briefly, both English and Spanish congregations. It was very encouraging for me to be there and to fellowship and worship with brothers and sisters to whom I am united in the bonds of grace.

I reminded our church that God is good in all His ways. He was good in sparing my life. And He would have been good in taking it. Psalm 119:71 and 75 are my testimony. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, and I do know that God has done this in faithfulness.

There are many more lessons that the Lord is teaching me--and reteaching me. So much of the Christian life is not learning new things but learning fundamental things in new ways.

Doctors have given me reason to anticipate continuing progress in recuperation. I am seeing daily improvements. There are still some difficulties with which I must contend, and, I have been encouraged to be patient with these. Hopefully, they will diminish with time.

I am so very grateful for all of the prayers and expressions of love and encouragements that have come my way. Many who I know primarily or even exclusively through blogging have encouraged me with notes and comments. I am deeply appreciative and reminded of the wonder of being in the family of the living God.

Please continue to pray as the Lord brings me to mind. I am planning to preach this week for the first time since the strike. Fortunately, I have a great apostolic example of preaching "in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling" (1 Cor. 2:3).

In the future, I hope to be able to write more specifically about lessons learned through this experience. If I am enabled to do so, I will post such thoughts here.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Update from Donna (Tom's wife)

We realize that, after Tom's last blog post, an update on his condition is long overdue. Many expressions of love and concern have been passed along to us and each one has been used by God to encourage us. This has been an interesting journey and our family still finds ourselves traveling uncharted territory.Since Tom's previous post, we have learned much more about the mysterious and unpredictable after-effects of being struck by lightning. Initially, following his lead, we all found a great deal of humor in the situation. Though the Lord has enabled us to continue to laugh, we now are coming to terms with the seriousness of what has happened.


In fact, as Tom and I have talked, we have agreed that he should apologize for any contribution his words have made to discount the seriousness of this type of injury. We understand more about the mysteries of the human body and how many people suffer from real symptoms that cannot be viewed by casual observers. Even as Tom struggled through the airport, I wondered how many travelers were aware of his struggle. I doubt that those who were frustrated by his slow gait and halting steps stopped to consider what might be going on inside of him. I pray that God would help me to be more compassionate to those who struggle internally.


I am happy to say that in many ways Tom is doing better than could be expected. His recovery has been a slow process (though in comparison to the recovery of others and in God's timetable, it has been more rapid than we deserve).


By God's grace, less than a week after the lightning strike, after undergoing some tests and consulting with doctors, Tom boarded a plane and flew to Michigan with our family. The trip itself was a challenge and a real test of faith. Because his nerves and sense of equilibrium were still severely affected, the noise, crowds, movement, jostling, etc. involved, not only with the plane ride but also with a bustling airport, were almost more than he could bear. Surprisingly, the escalator going down was the hardest challenge of the day. However, God helped him, and our family has been enjoying a much-needed time of rest and relaxation at some friends' home in Michigan.


During our time away, Tom has made great improvement in many of his symptoms. He can tolerate more and louder conversations (a real plus when you have six talkative children). His bouts of pain, which hit without warning in varying degrees and location, have lessened. He has more energy, is able to be more active and has had some meaningful conversations with all of us. He has led our family in some sweet times of worship. God is faithful.


His recovery is not complete though. Nights are still very hard. Sleep may or may not come. When it does come, Tom is visited with disturbing and disruptive nightmares that leave him tired and emotionally shaken. We are so grateful for the truths of the Gospel that ring true in the middle of the night, as well as the day.


Tom also continues to struggle with crowds and being easily startled. Walmart was a real challenge this past week (although it was a challenge PRIOR to the lightning strike!) :) If he had to give up Walmart for the rest of his life, he could live with that. We worshipped at Berean Baptist Church in Grand Blanc on Sunday and I am grateful that Tom experienced very little discomfort and was able to be fully engaged in the service.


However, he must still deal with crowds of people in general. We are trusting God to help him adjust to these and other disruptive side-effects of his encounter with lightning.


We have a few more days of R & R to enjoy and then we will head home to Cape Coral for a week before Tom and I, and our eldest daughter will be leaving for a conference in Alaska, Lord willing, where Tom will be preaching for the first time since the lightning strike. Believing that God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, more than we are able to ask or even think, we are anticipating being able to make this trip and for Tom to be able to preach for the honor of Christ and for God's glory.


We are trusting God to perfect ALL that concerns us. He is able. His love for us knows no bounds. He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)


Hard nights are often followed by hard days. Last night was a hard night. But God is still faithful. His mercies are new each morning. We are resting in His promises. Thank you for your prayers.


(Photos by Rebecca Ascol)

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A display of divine greatness and mercy

Monday night will go down as one of the most unusual in the Ascol household. As those of you who have followed my twittering or facebook updates have read, last night I received the shock of my life. Literally. Here's the story.

It was a dark and stormy night. Again, literally. We were several hours into one of our famous Florida electrical storms. The skies looked similar to this photo, which was taken out our back window a couple of years ago.

Around 1:30 AM police were at our home investigating a possible burglary (in our garage--which is a whole 'nother story of its own!). After determining that if someone broke into our garage, he (or she) was gone, one of the officers strongly suggested that I lock the doors on our cars in the driveway, due to a rise in robberies from automobiles in the last year. He and his colleague suggested that we all go investigate whether anything was missing from the cars and to secure them.

It was still raining--by that time more than 2 inches had fallen in the previous 12 hours. And, the skies were still being illuminated by lightning and impressive thunder. I went out first, barefooted and wearing shorts and t-shirt, and walked up to our Buick Skylark. In a perfectly timed instant, the moment my right hand gripped the door handle the most brilliant flash of light and loudest crack of thunder I have ever witnessed provided a most electrifying experience.

Beginning at my right hand and traveling up my arm, down my side and right leg and foot, I got the shock of my life. I was thrown back several feet and on to the ground. The policemen let expletives fly and hovered over me, asking me questions that made no sense. Another bolt of ligtning struck nearby and they helped me up and back inside my house, as they called for paramedics. The ambulance arrived within minutes and 4 paramedics started checking me out by running various tests on me, including an ekg.

By God's grace I remained fully conscious and showed no signs of being burned. I declined their offer to go to the hospital. After giving me further instructions, they left, I changed clothes and futiley tried to go back to sleep. After getting up and quietly reflecting on the night's events for a couple of hours, I was able to wind down around 4:30 and get some sleep.

This afternoon my doctor helped me understand the nauseated and dizzy feelings that crept over me. My nerves, he said, have been "inflamed" and would take a while to calm down. The good news is that I never lost consciousness and there is no evidence of neurological damage (though some would probably challenge that). Basically, it is as if I am at my wit's end all the time. Noise, bright lights and too much movement are...well, nerve wracking! He gave me an injection and ordered some other medications and put me on 48 hours of bedrest. That is where I am as I blog this. In my pajamas. ;-)

The hope is that I will recover sufficiently to preach Sunday (though I have had to pull out of teaching Dads and Sons Wednesday and will miss a couple of days of our Pilgrim's Progress VBS) and then to travel to a board meeting for the Midwest Center on Monday, after which I will meet my family for several days of vacation. That will take me into the month of August which has been set aside for a brief sabbatical, part of which will be spent traveling.

What all of this together means is that I anticipate very little blogging over the next 6 weeks.

Though our family has been able to see some humor in all of this, we are also aware of its seriousness and are very grateful to the Lord for His mercy in these events. I recognize that His mercy and goodness would not have been diminished in the least had the lightning killed me. Nevertheless, His mercy has been manifested to me in that not only have I been spared serious injury, but also the frayed-nerves-feeling seems to be slowy improving.

Several friends have let me know of their prayers, and I am deeply grateful for these displays of grace and kindness to me.

The Lord reigns. As Elihu confesses, He sovereignly directs both thunder and lightning. By these heavenly displays He gives a clear witness of His greatness, in the words of Matthew Henry, "even to the most stupid and unthinking." Even I got that.

"At this also my heart trembles,
And leaps from its place.
Hear attentively the thunder of His voice,
And the rumbling that comes from His mouth.
He sends it forth under the whole heaven,
His lightning to the ends of the earth.
After it a voice roars;
He thunders with His majestic voice,
And He does not restrain them when His voice is heard.
God thunders marvelously with His voice;
He does great things which we cannot comprehend."
Job 37:1-5

Amen.

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