OCTOBER 11, 2006

The world and all its laws and priorities were removed without hesitation and there was nothing else but God and his holiness and his love. 

Dear Jess, This very statement is so awesome, just like the rest of the article.  Few there be that discover there is nothing but our God; beside Him there is none other or nothing other.

This precious writer has the hand of Jesus touching her heart.  Surely she is called to know Him in His fullness.


Please read this incredible story of the provisions of a mighty God over even one of us at our hour of greatest need.  The Katie referenced in this wonderful story is mine and Joann’s sweet niece Katie Robinson and sophomore at Baylor and a special servant of the most high God.  Jackie who sent this to me is Joann’s sister Jackie Robinson…Jess

As some of you know, Katie’s friend Dan Leverenz is in Europe studying this semester.  He is with a group of pre-med students (I’m not sure if they are all from Baylor or not).  Dan has been journaling his experiences through his blog entries.  Today’s entry is one of true miracles – one that has to be shared (see below).  Please pray earnestly for Dan, his brother David and the rest of the students who will remain there until the first week of December.



Now THIS is where things get tricky.  As I’m sure I say with frustrating frequency, I hardly know where to begin.  But this time it’s truer than it has ever been.

This weekend a group of eight friends including, by name, Brinkley Sandvall, Greg Valentine, Justin Chetta, Nathan Grohman, Greg Stecker, Corrie Littlepaugh, David Leverenz, and myself, took a train to the little town of Hallstatt, Austria.  We thought that it would be the most beautiful place in the world, and it was, but that hardly matters now.

We started hiking up a mountain behind the town to some salt mines, which apparently are somewhat famous.  There were clearly marked trails nearly all the way to the top.  At the top, we got into a pretty steep and very rocky spot.  We wanted to climb it instead of turning around because we could tell the view from the top of the hill would be the most beautiful thing any of us had ever seen.  So we climbed.  I climbed pretty fast and managed to get to the top first, which was an absolute blessing.  I was behind a big rock, catching my breath, when I heard the sound of a rock – a big one – start to fall.  I jumped up in time to see a boulder literally explode against another rock, and then there was only screaming.  I couldn’t see what happened… I kind of blacked out, and when I came to, I found myself running halfway down the hill to where the others were… I saw Corrie, with remarkable calm and strength, and she explained to me that Brinkley had been hurt.  Her hand was crushed by the boulder, which fell, but that David was taking care of her… he had been near her when it happened and was now holding her arm in the air, Greg nearby holding her artery to stop the bleeding.  I looked down the hill and saw the other Greg literally tearing down the road to find help.  I will start listing the miracles in a moment.  It will be a long list. 

The entire sequence of events that followed is a blur of miracles.  I cannot describe them as if they were mere events.  I do not use the word “miracle” to describe events, which are simply fortuitous, as the word is so often used today.  I use to describe an act of God – a pure act of power, which is above our own.  I use it to describe events, which simply had no business occurring in the natural world, without the hand of God in them.  I use it in the same way that the New Testament uses it to describe Jesus healing the sick and feeding the crowds. 


1. Nathan had his cell phone and it worked – in the middle of the mountains.  We tried using it later in the middle of a large town while we were on the train to go to the hospital Brinkley was at, and it didn’t even work then.  But it worked right then, in the middle of nowhere, in the instant we needed it to.  He called the European 911 number (112, which he somehow remembered from our hasty orientation the first day we were here), and ordered a helicopter to come pick her off the mountain.  There was absolutely no way we could have gotten her down without them.

2. Greg Stecker ran down the entire steep hill, unharmed, and tore down the trail to find help, and miraculously ran into a man who, although he understood no English, followed Greg to the bottom of the slope we were on and called the flight paramedics as well, directing them to our particular mountain.

3. The same man that Greg found helped Corrie and myself the rest of the way down the mountain.  Corrie could hardly move, and I was having difficulty figuring out if this was all real.  But the whole time he was with us, he had his strong hand on Corrie’s arm and guided us down, mumbling something indiscernible in a language I didn’t recognize, but was pure peace of tongue.  It was pure peace.  Later, the man literally disappeared.  There’s no way to explain it other than that.  Not one of our group of six (Brinkley had been saved by the flight crew at this point, and Corrie was with her) saw him leave. 

4. The helicopter found us within 20 minutes after the call.  On a hilltop in the middle of the Austrian mountains.  They flew right to us.

5. They flew Brinkley to a large hospital in Salzburg – a 13-minute flight.  It was the best hand hospital in the country.  While we were waiting for Brinkley to get out of surgery, we couldn’t help but noticing that every single person, with the exception of only one or two patients, had a hand injury of some sort.

6. The surgeon who operated on Brinkley is apparently world-renowned for his skill in hand reconstruction.  He just happened to be at the hospital when Brinkley arrived.  He was apparently not scheduled to work then.

7. The six of us managed to make it from a some random mountaintop to one particular hospital in a large town three hours away by train in a land where no one speaks our language, and we’re hardly aware of how it happened.  It was EASY.  There was not a hitch.  It was almost as if we floated there by no effort of our own.

8. Most importantly.  Brinkley has her life.  She has her life, and this is what I will talk about in a minute.  The doctors noticed that she had been hit in the head by the boulder that feel, but there was no wound other than minor swelling.  They even had to shave a small spot on the back of her head to find it.  She had been hit in the back of the head by the boulder, but was not injured.  Only her hand was injured.  She has her life.  Everyone who saw it said they could not possibly conceive of how she survived.  They could not imagine any scenario in which she would not have been taken down the hill by the boulder, or crushed by it against the rock she was hanging on to.  They could not see how she was not dead, but she was spared.  She has her life.

9. Most importantly, in conjunction with #8.  Brinkley has her faith. 

For those of you who do not know Brinkley, let me tell you about her.  She has become my sister, my true sister in Christ.  I’ve told Katie about this quite a bit – about what has been happening here.  Our group, our dear group of friends and Christians, has grown to a place where everything else is being eliminated except for God himself.  It is the most beautiful thing.  Our conversations, our love for one another… the best way to explain it is found in 1 Peter 1: 21-22.  “Through Christ you have come to trust in God.  And because God raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory, your faith and hope can be placed confidently in God.  NOW YOU CAN HAVE SINCERE LOVE FOR EACH OTHER AS BROTHERS AND SISTERS BECAUSE YOU WERE CLEANSED FROM YOUR SINS WHEN YOU ACCEPTED THE TRUTH OF THE GOOD NEWS.  So see to it that you really do love each other intensely with all your hearts.”

And that is what has happened.  We have grown together as brothers and sisters; we have been set free to love like that, with all intensity and sincerity, because we have accepted the truth of the Good News together.  We have shared it with one another, we have told each other our stories, we have sought it together, and we have accepted it together.  And so we have been set free to love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, and I hope everyone will get to experience this one-day.  The purity, the love that is there between all of us, is of the kind I’ve never truly experienced before, and can only be from God.

And so Brinkley has become my sister.  And if there is one way to describe her, it is that she is a beacon of Christ, she is a LIGHT in the way that the authors of the New Testament talk about being a light.  She is a light in the way that Christ sent us to be a light.  She is a living sacrifice; she is a beautiful creation of God who recognizes nothing except her love for God.  This is why we love her.


And if ever there was one fear I had about the situation with her hand, it is that she might have lost her faith.  Many people would have hated God for it.  Many people would have hidden from Him or even turned from Him, asking what kind of love this is.  But we prayed with Brinkley again and again when we saw her after surgery, and she thanked God for His protection.  Did you hear that?  She thanked God for His protection.  She praised God, she loved God, and she still loves God with all her passion, despite the pain and fear she feels.

And the most beautiful thing is that nothing – absolutely nothing – can ever, ever take that unmentionable, indescribable, unspeakable love of God away from her.  “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?  Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death?  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love.  Death can’t, and life can’t.  The angels can’t, and the demons can’t.  Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away.  Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, 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: 35-39

The thing I keep standing in awe of us that we have somehow come to praise God even more, to thank God even more, to love God even more, in the midst of this horror.  Brinkley lost her left pinky finger… it could not be saved.  It was crushed and severed.  Her thumb is horribly broken as well, but it has pins in it and should regain strength and mobility with time and therapy.  The other three fingers are all fine.  And that is all.  That is all that happened to her.  She was hit in the head with a boulder, but it barely left a mark – the only mark it left it seems was to show us of yet another miracle that happened that day. 

And somehow, all this has brought us closer to God.  Somehow we have come to see only God and experience only His love… and I hardly know how to speak of it, but I want to tell you about it so bad.  I want so badly to be able to put words to this.

God has taught me so much and given me so much… and if there is one thing which stands out above the rest it is this: a heartfelt, total, utter, complete, and overwhelming thankfulness for the life that is found in Jesus.  I have tried again and again to speak about the unspeakable joy that is found in it.  I know that words fall so short.  We only have a few words in our vocabulary, with pitifully tiny definitions behind them; we only have a few phrases with which we try to describe the glory of God, the grace of God, the love of God.  But I want to try, again and again, for the rest of my life, to tell of these things.  The pure abundance. 

Our lives are so tiny, so fragile, and so brief.  We’ve all said it, but we cannot possibly realize it until we have seen a dear friend’s life almost snuffed out by a thoughtless, lifeless, soul-less mass of hardened material tumbling down an even bigger mass of lifelessness.  In a moment, a tiny instant, the vibrant, insane radiation of life and spark and reality and joy and thought and experience and breath and tears and love and care that is Brinkley could have been removed by the mindless law of gravity and inertia.  Nature would have obeyed nature, and a life defined by love could have ceased to exist as easily as it is for me to mechanically push on one of these keys.  But nature did not obey nature, because the Owner of nature, the Creator of Life, not mere objects but life itself, the Breath of love, removed nature for a moment and allowed Brinkley the chance to live.  And in an instant, the world was removed.  The world and all its laws and priorities was removed without hesitation and there was nothing else but God and his holiness and his love. 

There is nothing else but Him.  My time in front of this computer is brief, my time on the mountain is brief, I could be ended in a moment.  My pinky can be taken, my eyes can be removed, my friends can be stolen, and my parents can be distant.  Nothing is real, not a single thought, nothing that we try so hard to hold on to, not one moment of enjoyment over a song or a scene or a picture or a thought – none of this is real… there is only God and his love, the love that he breathes into us.  It is a singularity of existence, there is only one thing that is real and there is only one thing that is constant and it is the arms of God.  I cannot describe it!  I pray that I may never forget this.  I know it now, I feel it now, I experience it now, when I’ve never experienced it before, and I pray that this will stay.  That our lives are not our own, and that we have one responsibility, and that is to love God, using the same love that overflows within us that he has given us first.

Brinkley wanted to be a plastic surgeon, and she is so scared that she won’t be able to.  She wanted to do reconstruction – much the same thing that is being performed on her now.  She wanted to do it for God, and she has such a heart for the sick, and she is so scared that she won’t be able to employ her hands in such a specific way for God as she has always planned.

But what I have come to realize is that none of that matters.  I pray that she gets to live along that line of resonance that she has felt for so long, but I also pray that she would experience the pure abundance that is spent in a life with Christ that is not dependent on the specific motions of her hands and her words but rather on the direction of her heart, and the mere thought that she has retained the chance to do that – to live for God and God alone, to experience peace in its reality, gives me the kind of joy that I can hardly experience. 

There is nothing else – nothing matters – except that love.

We have all experienced a lot over the past weekend.  David has dark, bloody images lodged in his head.  All of us – everyone who was on that mountain and everyone we’ve managed to tell about the horror and the miracles – the light of heaven shining through what looked like hell – has prayed unceasingly for this, whether by word or action. 

I want to give encouragement to these people, my dear friends, my brothers and sisters.  Jesus says this: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.”Matthew 11: 28-30.

If we take the perfect yoke of our dear Savior upon us, then we will find rest for our souls.  Not only for our sore backs, our bodies, our dark thoughts, or our situations.  But for our souls… the very things which make us part of life.  We can find rest for our souls.  And we can take such utter delight and confidence in laying our burdens at the feet of Jesus and TRUSTING Him in that, TRUSTING our Lord that he will indeed take our cares and our worries away from us.  And we do not need to moan and wail about our hurts, or even the hurts of our friends, our dear sister Brinkley… but we can lay Brinkley at the feet of Jesus and be encouraged, be joyful and restful because it is the God of Love that loved us first that is wrapping His hands around our sister… that it is His presence that now enfolds her and surrounds her so close that she can only taste him, see him, hear him, feel him, drink in his love. 

He is our God, and he loves us so much, and when we experience that… for a weekend that turns into a lifetime… there is nothing on this earth that can compare.  Nothing to turn back to.


MIRACLES [Jim-Melba Crofford] 10-11-06          1


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