Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Trees in the Forest

On Sunday morning, I presented a message for the little children. I told them that sometimes on Sunday mornings I don’t get time for breakfast and during church I get really hungry. Sometimes I don’t even think I can make it through the sermon. I told them that today was one of those days that I didn’t get breakfast, so I brought a McDonald’s hamburger to eat during the sermon. (As you can imagine, all eyes were watching as I took out my McDonald’s bag) I began taking out items from the bag. I first removed the straw, then the cup for the drink. Then I took out the napkins, followed by the salt and pepper packets. Then I removed the mustard and catsup packets. (By this time the children were huddled close).

Then I said, “Now for the most important thing”. I looked in the (now empty) bag and said, “Oh no, I forgot the hamburger!! I was so busy getting all the other things ready, I forgot the most important thing and now I am going to be hungry. I then explained to the children that often we get so busy doing all the things come up in our life that we forget the most important thing; and that is our time spent with God.

Over the last couple of years, and especially the last many months, my life has seemed like a forest, thick with trees. The trees have taken on several shapes and names. Some trees have been small and some giant oaks. Diagnosed with late stage cancer, chemo, radiation, surgeries, the sudden unexpected death of my sweet young niece, my youngest son wounded in Afghanistan, surgery for herniated disc. It has sometimes seemed like a walk from one tree to the other, buried deep in a dark forest with no real light to lead me out. I have been so caught up in the busyness of tackling the trees (the day to day tasks to just get through) that I would lose sight of the forest. Oftentimes, I failed to stop, sit, and rest on a fallen tree log and just BE in the presence of God.

This morning as I sit alone with God and write, I have an overwhelming feeling that someone reading this is going through a forest. Walking from tree to tree, trying to make it on their own, unable to see any light. Are you walking through the forest today? Has life seemed filled with one trial after another. Are the trees so thick that you can’t see any light for the forest? Perhaps, you have been so busy just trying to make it through that you have lost sight of the most important thing?

If so, my prayer for you is that you will take a moment before this day is over, to sit and just BE in His presence. Look up. There you will see the light! His Light. And we will once again be able to see the forest!

“Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36 Put your trust in the light while you have it.” (John 12:35-36)

Monday, May 31, 2010


Freedom isn’t free. Today is Memorial Day. I have always thought of Memorial Day as a time to honor our military, but I really had no idea what that really meant. Until April 14, 2010.

My youngest son, Brent, left for Afghanistan to serve in the US Marine Corps, in March 2010. As we said goodbye that day, I prayed Psalms 91:11-12 for him. “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. They will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Little did I know that God had revealed that Psalm specifically for Brent.

I had prayed that prayer every day while he was serving in Iraq the year before and felt an even greater leading to pray it for this deployment. Carl and I both had an uneasy feeling when we said good-bye. But I justified it by telling myself that “every mom has felt this way when their child leaves for war”.

Until the phone rang on April 14th. The call no parent wants to receive.

"We are sorry to have to inform you that your son, Corporal Brent Larimer, has been seriously burned in combat in Afghanistan. We do not have the details of his injuries but he is being flown out of the combat zone for medical help. We will inform you of his status as we get more information."

We began to pray. We asked everyone we knew to pray.

Though it is a bit lengthy, I wanted to post here the article of the attack, for it truly shows God's hand at work even in the most horrific circumstances..

Vol. II No. 7
The Official Newsletter Of The 1st Marine Division
May 3, 2010

Facing Danger, Overcoming Fear

SALAM BAZAAR, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan –

Adrenalin was rushing the morning of April 14th, 2010 as Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2 and members of the Afghan National Security Forces approached the Salam Bazaar in Helmand province. The Marines of Alpha Company, 1/2, were tasked with securing the bazaar, known as a haven for Taliban activity, including heavy weapons and a focal point for the drug trade. All reports indicated enemy contact was imminent.

By mid-afternoon, the Marines had secured the bazaar, but things would not stay quiet for long. By the day's end, many heroic deeds would be accomplished, but the actions of one Marine would leave his fellow brothers-in-arms calling him a hero.

Staff Sgt. Robert K. Kesterson, the platoon commander for 2nd platoon, Alpha Company, 1/2, and many of his Marines were disappointed with only finding several homemade explosives and scattered amounts of drugs. They were prepared for anything. The day had dwindled down and the atmosphere was calm and controlled, the raid of the bazaar was over, or so they thought.

That's when all hell broke loose.
"We started taking heavy contact from RPG, indirect, small arms and machine gun fire and an improvised explosive devise destroyed one of our vehicles," said Capt. Jeremy S. Wilkinson, the company commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. "It was a pretty complex situation out there," said Kesterson, "but, with all the training we had, our reactions became second nature.

Initially, there were no injuries until the lead vehicle, loaded with Marines, rolled over an IED. Although Kesterson was in the third vehicle, nearly 100 yards to the rear of the detonated IED, he was there in an instant. "Our vehicles received a lot of debris from the explosion," said Kesterson. "We could tell it was a big IED. Dust was everywhere and I could not see anything for what seemed like an eternity."

The lone casualty at the time was Lance Cpl. Justin Shaw, an assaultman in the squad. He had suffered a serious concussion, requiring immediate medical attention. Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Pagan, the lead vehicle commander, quickly gathered his wits, ordered his Marines to provide security around the downed vehicle, while he called for the 'medivac.' Once Shaw was carried out of the vehicle and loaded into the ambulance vehicle, Cpl. Brent Larimer, also an assaultman in the squad, jumped into the turret and began to lay down suppressive fire.

What happened next was a true test of Kesterson's courage.
Kesterson, known to his men as Staff Sgt K, glanced back and saw Larimer was engulfed in flames. "When I looked back, I realized that Larimer and the vehicle were on fire," said Pfc. Shane W. Barlow, the team leader and driver of the lead vehicle. "I jumped out and ran around and saw him laying on the turret stand. He was on fire and because of the intense heat rounds were cooking off inside the vehicle." Immediately, Kesterson ran up to the truck where Larimer was and reached in, ripping him from the vehicle. Kesterson then threw himself on top of Larimer to put out the flames.

"When I saw the vehicle catch fire and a Marine was in serious trouble, that's when I jumped into the burning vehicle and pulled Cpl. Larimer out," said Kesterson, 34, from Greenberg, Tenn.
"I reached in and grabbed the Marine," Kesterson said. "His left arm and left rib cage was on fire. I pulled him out and patted him down and threw dirt on him to get the fire out." Kesterson stayed with Larimer until the 'medivac' arrived. "I couldn't believe it," said Barlow. "He jumped in a burning vehicle while rounds were being cooked off, to save the life of a Marine who was burning alive. To me, the man is a hero."

But like many of the heroic deeds by Marines throughout our proud history, Kesterson was quick to downplay what had transpired. He humbly confided that he was just glad to have been in the right place, at the right time, to help a fellow Marine in need.

I believe that God honored the prayer of a worried mother and lifted her child up in the arms of an angel named Staff Sgt. Kesterson. How can I ever express my gratitude to Him?

This blog is the beginning of the story of how God has been involved in this tragic event. I have much more to share of the days and weeks after the accident. But on this day, Memorial Day, my heart goes out to all those mother's whose child didn't come home. I will be in prayer for them today. I will also thank God this day for the many men and women who make the sacrifice every day for our freedoms.


Saturday, May 29, 2010


She was just about 4 pounds when she came home from the hospital, 30 years ago. She grew into a beautiful, blond haired, blue eyed young woman who loved life and always had a smile and encouraging word for those she was around. She had 2 beautiful little children, Abbie age 7 and Avery age 4. She was engaged to be married and had never been happier in her life.

Her name was Kristi and she was my niece, my sister Chery’s oldest daughter. On Wednesday, March 25, Kristi took the children to school, went to work, picked up the children, made dinner and put the children to bed. On Thursday, she woke up with a headache, had a seizure and never woke up.

For a couple of days, Kristi laid in a hospital bed kept alive only by machines. Her beautiful blue eyes didn’t shine. Her lips didn’t smile. No encouraging words were spoken from her mouth.

We called out to God. We prayed. We begged Him to let her wake up. We bargained. We shook our fists in anger at Him. We questioned “Why”. What could God possibly be thinking here, for a young vibrant mother to be taken so suddenly? But God stayed silent.

My heart broke for my sister as I watched her kiss the cheek of the child she gave life to, only to see her life slip away before her eyes. If tears could have saved Kristi, she would be here today.

After being at the hospital for three days, Chery and her husband Clay left without the child they had raised and loved for 30 years. It seemed as though God wasn’t there and didn’t care.

But when they arrived home and walked up to the front door, God spoke to them!! For on their porch light was a message from Him that wasn’t there when they left their house 3 days before.

A beautiful dove! The dove is a symbol of peace. In the bible, the dove represents the Holy Spirit, given to us by God as a comforter, when He couldn't be with us in person. Chery and Clay were desperately in need of peace and comfort. This dove was God's way of providing HIS peace. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." (John 14:27). I will never understand why God didn’t grant our petition for Kristi to wake up. I cannot possibly understand His ways. But God doesn’t promise that every journey in life will be on the mountain. Only in heaven will there me no more tears. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Rev. 21:4) But God feels the hurt we experience in this life. and He WILL provide what we need to get through, until the day we will be with our loved ones forever!!

Rest in the arms of Jesus our sweet Kristi. And one day soon we will be together again!