I had a "Giant Cavernous Aneurysm" behind my left eye. I went to Dallas for surgery and it was killed...however post op my eye is unresponsive. It is if I am looking out of a steamy shower door. Some days it is better than others. Please pray that my sight will be restored. God has been putting words on my heart that I feel I must put on paper. The following thoughts are those I feel that the Lord is speaking to me lately. Enjoy.

December 09, 2007

The Empty Chair

Around the dinner table tonight sits an empty chair. The chair seat is cold, as cold as the Colorado winter outside. Death resides where life should live. A grieving loved one stares at the empty chair through tear-stained eyes with the reality that they will never ever return.

The weather in Colorado Springs was Narnia-esqe. A fresh blanket of snow covered the pine trees and the mountains in the distance. Pikes Peak pierced the deep blue sky. The air was brisk and filled with anticipation as Dr. Jack Hayford was to speak today at New Life Church. Five thousand people filtered out of the first service as my family and five thousand others replaced their seats for the second one. The congregation listened attentively as Jack delivered an amazing word on preparing your heart to be softened. He spoke eloquently on the importance of not allowing your heart to become hard. The title of the message was “A heart for Christmas.”

After church we made arrangements to meet friends at a local restaurant. We picked up our kids from their classes, visited with more friends, loaded up in the Sequoia and left the building at 1:00 pm…only five minutes before the crisp, cold silence was interrupted with the popping sounds of gunfire.

The gunman’s shoes crunched through our tire tracks in the snow as he made his way towards the church. Shots were fired on the innocent and the unknowing. The beauty of the fresh snow was soon tainted with the blood of his victims, as well as his own. By God’s grace, one of the security guards at the church confronted the shooter, fatally wounding him. It was a scene fit for an episode of CSI, not New Life Church.

As my church grieves tonight the irony is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Ten thousand people left the sanctuary with a renewed conviction of the importance of a soft heart. As we exited the building, we were confronted by one of the hardest, darkest hearts imaginable. Instead of sitting in his car loading his weapons, what if he had been in the back row listening? Would it have changed the outcome?

The joy and excitement of Christmas was interrupted today…gunfire and death will do that. Today we had the occasion to introduce to our boys a reality that they should never have to deal with. Even so, by God’s grace, I counted five people tonight around my dinner table. All were present and accounted for.

At another home, at another table somewhere down the street another family counts one less person tonight. Only fifteen days before Christmas, a family will go to bed with an uncontainable chill throughout their home.

The brevity of life once again rears its’ head. I think about how easily we could have run into another friend…delaying our departure 5 minutes. Tonight I hug my wife and children tighter. I look into their eyes deeper than I ever have and tell them I love them. I think about God’s grace, that He would allow me to live another day. I don’t claim to understand all that has transpired over the past 6 hours. I only claim to be the son of a living God who loves his children deeply. Incredibly, He loved the shooter no less than He loves me. He only longed for him to know Him.

If he had, there would be no empty chair tonight.


Blogger Beth P said...

I had no idea that this was your home church! I felt such grief when I heard all of this on the news last night. A friend of mine (Becky Jeffrey Brooks) just said yesterday that one of her prayers as they go about their day is that the Lord will delay them or speed them up in their schedule if it will allow them to avoid danger. I know the Lord did just that for you, Suzi and the boys. I know you have lots of family who is thankful that they will spend another holiday with you, their son.
Thank you for sharing your heart and insight to the things God is teaching you.
Expect Blessings,
Beth (Collins) Plemons

11:09 AM

Blogger Lana (Morris) Scully said...

Bart and Suzi,

Our family is praying for you and your church family. It is another wake up call for me as to how fragile life is and how bountiful our blessings are. Thank you for taking time to blog. Bart, it is so refreshing to read your entries. God really speaks to me through your written words.

9:19 AM

Blogger Amy C said...

I will be praying for the members of the church and their families at the trying time as you and others are ministering to them. Praise God you are safe.

9:42 AM


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