Beauty From Ashes
Sometimes God takes something we'd categorize as good, and shakes it up so He gets all the glory. Hear the stories of John and Donna Bishop, Andy and Nikki Bray, and Jake and Rebecca Mutz.
About the Guest
Sometimes God takes something we'd categorize as good, and shakes it up so He gets all the glory. Hear the stories of John and Donna Bishop, Andy and Nikki Bray, and Jake and Rebecca Mutz.
Sometimes God takes something we’d categorize as good, and shakes it up so He gets all the glory. Hear the stories of John and Donna Bishop, Andy and Nikki Bray, and Jake and Rebecca Mutz.
Bob: Donna Bishop’s husband—John—was sitting in his chair in the living room right before dinner. When his wife came to get him, she found him unresponsive.
John: When I woke up from meningitis, I did not know her. I didn’t know my name. I really didn’t know anything. I had a very unusual case of amnesia that—I didn’t just forget names and people—I forgot everything.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, December 29th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Where do you turn for help and for hope when life takes an unexpected turn? We’ll spend time thinking about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. This will wrap up 2017 for us.
We’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with listeners this year and are grateful for the listeners who have made this year possible.
Dennis: And I just want to say thanks to all the Legacy Partners who give monthly—“Thank you for doing that.”
I want to turn to the rest of our listeners—and maybe, even a Legacy Partner or two—who’d like to increase their giving. We’ve got a matching opportunity in place where if you’d like to double your impact of your giving and keep FamilyLife Today continuing on with strong, biblical programming that’s authentic—that’s practical—that provides hope and help for your most important relationships in life—your relationship with God, your spouse, your children—we’d welcome your partnership.
We’d love to have you on the team helping us stand strong here and turn the calendar to a new year being able to look at the coming year with a smile on our face.
Bob: In fact, these last days of the year are the days that—
—determine how much ministry we’ll be able to do in 2018. So, as listeners are generous with us, we’ll be able to expand the reach of this ministry in the days ahead. That’s our hope and prayer—that we can—not have to slow down but, in fact, speed up and reach more people. We’ve got some exciting plans for the year ahead, and we’re just hoping that there will be enough gas in the tank to get us to where we believe God wants us to go.
Dennis: We really are excited about the coming year. I think out of—now approaching our 42nd year of ministry, this really is one of the most exciting years ever in FamilyLife® history. So, stand with us right now with a generous gift. I promise you we will squeeze every ounce of ministry out of the dollars you give us—and it’s not going to stick to our fingers. We’re givers too—Bob and Mary Ann give—Barbara and I are a part of the giving team here at FamilyLife.
I just want to thank you again for listening to FamilyLife Today—
—and would invite you to participate with us in keeping this broadcast coming strong to this community.
Bob: It is easy to give online at FamilyLifeToday.com—very simple—or you can call and give over the phone. 1-800-FL-TODAY is our number—or if you’d like to mail a check to us, you can do that. It’ll still qualify for the matching gift as long as it’s postmarked before the end of the year. You can mail your check to FamilyLife Today at P.O. Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
What we’re going to talk about today—what we’re going to hear today goes back, I think—Dennis—to a conversation we had early on in the first years of this program. We were talking to a pastor who described some of the ordeals that we go through in life as holy scars. I remember you kind of latched onto that description and said, “That’s a great”—
—“picture of how God uses pain in our lives for redemptive purposes.”
Dennis: The story you’re going to hear today—the first one—is—I’ll tell you—it’s just a classic in FamilyLife Today history. John and Donna Bishop from Rosebud, Arkansas—I’ll just promise you something folks we’re going to be standing in line to wash their feet in heaven. This is a pair of great human beings who have endured incredible challenges in their life, their marriage, their family—but they stood strong for Jesus Christ.
Donna: We were pastoring a church there in Heber Springs—we had a good church that we enjoyed—everything was going great. We had three sons, and they were growing up. We also worked on our youth camp there—lived on the camp grounds, and started the youth camp. We were just—I would say it was a perfect life. Everything was just great.
We were just having a great time serving the Lord—our boys and our family.
Then, all of the sudden, he got sick, and the pain in the back of his head just got severe. He said, “You’re going to have to take me to the hospital.
John: When I woke up from meningitis, I did not know her—I didn’t know my name—I really didn’t know anything. I had a very unusual case of amnesia that—I didn’t just forget names and people—I forgot everything. I didn’t know how to eat—I’d forgotten how to chew food. For several weeks, she had to do everything for me—and you know what I mean—I say everything. I was like a baby. This went on for weeks and weeks. It took me near two years to where I could walk.
Donna: I kept thinking, “Okay, now, he’ll get it back.” So, he didn’t remember marriage or wedding.
So, I’d get our photo album out, and I’d say, “Don’t you remember—you know?” I’d try to trick him to see—“Okay, I know he can remember something.” I just kept trying to go back and—but he just doesn’t have anything.
John: I didn’t know what words were. That’s why I couldn’t read or write. My Donna taught me phonics finally, and my ten year old son would come home from school, sit on the couch, and help Daddy learn to read.
See, I didn’t know what I was, either. I said, “What am I?” She said, “You’re a preacher.” I said, “What a preacher is?” Of course, my family telling me, “You’re a Christian” but I didn’t know what that was. All I remember is from 1995 to this day—I remember nothing before that.
So, everything about my life is what—that happened beforehand—is what I’ve been told.
They had some tapes of me preaching before my illness—but one day, I listening to one of my messages—and I was pretty harsh—and I was listening, and I thought, “I don’t like that guy.” I took the tape out, and I threw out the window. [Laughter] I liked the new me better. You know my Donna puts it this way—Before my illness, I sort of knocked them over the head but now, I grab them by the heart. I think the Lord just decided, “If I’m going to use John, I’m going to have to break him all the way down and start over.”
Dennis: Bob, I’ve got to tell you—what a privilege to share that story with our listening audience.
I mean it’s like finding a great meal or a great dessert and asking a friend over to enjoy it with you.
Bob: Well, and that point he made at the end—where John said that it was like God had said, “If I’m going to use John, I’ve going to break him all the way down and rebuild him”—that’s how God works in all of us; right? Breaks us down—
Bob: —and then rebuilds us.
Dennis: Maybe, not quite as specifically as he did John because—
Dennis: —and Donna—what a great story and what a great response to what God did in their lives.
Bob: We’re going to hear another story. This comes from friends of ours who live in New Zealand when their daughter went off on a school trip and they got some devastating news. Michelle Hill who is a part of our team here at FamilyLife shared their story with listeners a while back.
Michelle: It was in the spring of 2008. Natasha and a group of her friends from school went to spend this—
—long weekend at the Outdoor Pursuit Center. It’s what they call the OPC, and cool things happen at the OPC—things like rock climbing and hiking, caving and rope-courses—but the weather forecast called for rain—and lots of it actually. And in New Zealand when it rains, rivers can flood—and they flood fast. Natasha’s dad Andy remembers how he first found out about the flood.
Andy: The first news I got on the laptop was a death—and that was just—I didn’t want to see that. It was just the furthest thing from my mind that some children at OPC would die.
Nikki: But there would be lots of schools down there. It won’t just be Natasha’s. I’m sure it won’t be Natasha.
Michelle: This is Natasha’s mom Nikki Bray.
Nikki: And for some reason, I just started to become incredibly sad—this overwhelming sadness. I started crying, and I said—
—to God, “Lord”—I said—“please let Natasha be safe.” I have never heard God speak to me; but I heard this voice in my spirit say, “She is safe. She’s with Me.” I just remember saying, “I don’t want her with You. I want her with me.” Then I got home—and everything started unfolding.
Jessica: I got home from hockey practice that night, and I had a text from another friend saying, “Have you heard what’s happened?” I straight away see, “Is Tasha okay?” I said, “I don’t know where she is.”
Michelle: This is Jessica Hancock. She’s one of Natasha’s best friends.
Jessica: So, I got my parents to take me straight to the church; and then, when we found out that people had, in fact, passed away—just not knowing if she was still alive—it wasn’t something that I ever want to go through again.
Nikki: It wasn’t until two o’clock in the morning that we finally got a knock at the door from a—
—very tearful, red-eyed policeman who just walked in. And as soon as we saw the policeman, everybody in our house—because we had so many people in our home at the time—just burst into tears knowing that this was the worst that we could hear.
Jessica: I always wondered, “What’s the point in taking her away from me? She’s my best friend.”
Nikki: They had been so looking forward to going. There were 40 of them going. So, they were packing their bags on this Saturday. As they were leaving, I just said, “Oh, honey, how will you feel if it rains the whole time you’re away, and you don’t get to do any of these great outdoor activities that you are all hanging out to do?” She just said, “Oh, Mum”—she said—“we are going to jump in puddles.” —meaning that no matter what happens—no matter what the situation—we will just make the most of it anyway—and that was the kind of person she was. She would make the most of any opportunity to pour herself into it.
Michelle: Natasha’s sister Olivia was two years younger than her.
Olivia: She always had a most genuine relationship with God that I just always wanted to follow and have that for myself. She would always be reading her Bible and always be teaching us Bible verses—or always be telling us about what she was going through with God and what she was learning. I just always looked up to her, and I really wanted to have that relationship as well.
Andy: She had a maturity in her faith at a young age that I haven’t ever seen again. I would take her out for the breakfast Bible studies—and she would do it with enthusiasm. She wrote her prayers inside the closet on a piece of cardboard inside her wardrobe door and had written a number of prayers inside there for people that she was praying for—her teachers at school, her siblings—those sorts of things. So, it was kind of nice to find that afterwards.
Nikki: Tasha poured her life into people. She would write notes to them all the time.
After the tragedy, I remember people coming up to me and saying, “Oh, she put this little note in my desk when I was going through a tough time” and she wrote them to her siblings as well.
I think where she saw an opportunity to do good, she did it. She never held back and invested her life into people. God continues to use her story—even today, people are becoming Christians or their giving their life or they’re finding purpose. It just keeps coming back. We just keep hearing so many stories, and He continues to use their lives even so many years onwards. Their impact is still felt.
Bob: Well, that’s Andy and Nikki Bray who give leadership to FamilyLife’s ministry in New Zealand and who shared with us about one of the darkest hours in their life—in their family. The loss of a child is one of the profoundest pains any parent can experience.
Dennis: I cannot imagine, and I just look at this couple and what they’ve been through—
—it’s fascinating to watch them and their faith and how they stood strong. And I have to tell our listeners kind of the rest of the story. They really hadn’t been away.
Bob: Andy and Nikki hadn’t?
Dennis: No. They had not really been away on kind of an anniversary/honeymoon adventure in decades. So, we arranged for them to join us on one of our conferences that we had. They came and joined us and just had a delightful time—and they were beaming, and they just enjoyed one another’s presence. You know it’s just fun to bless people with a gift.
Dennis: You know I just want to say to the listeners who bless FamilyLife with a gift—I want to say, “Thank you for how you’ve kept FamilyLife Today on the air over these past 25 years—remarkable.”
Bob: There is one other moment we want to visit before we wrap up.
It’s a moment that your family was a part of. You were preparing for your daughter Rebecca and your son-in-law—Jake—for the birth of their first child—excited about having a new grandbaby in the family.
Dennis: Yes, they had called us in the early morning hours of the day, said they were in labor, and she was going to give birth soon. Then, there was no follow-up call, no follow-up email—and we wondered if something was wrong—but we had no idea what, and there was no way we could have anticipated what took place.
Bob: You did learn later that your granddaughter Molly had been born with a congenital defect in her brain. You and Barbara—along with Jake’s parents Bill and Pam Mutz—went to Colorado to be with—
—your daughter and your son-in-law and to visit Molly to meet her—but you knew there was a day ahead when you’d have to say goodbye to Molly. Rebecca and Jake and others shared with us later about what happened on the day you said goodbye to Molly.
Rebecca: We both held her one more time—Jake held her first, and then I did.
Jake: Yes, there’s part of me that—that maybe wanted it to be done with.
Rebecca: Oh, it’s your last day, and you know it’s your last day. That’s a hard struggle to have going on—on that last day.
Jake: There was part of me that wanted to wait as long as possible—but it kind of felt just stuck.
Rebecca: Then, our nurse came and said,—
—“Okay, what time do you want to do this?”
Jake: But then—when the time came—we pushed it back and pushed it back again.
Rebecca: We were just like—“Beth, how do we make this kind of decision? How do we know when is right? I mean that’s just—we just don’t know. I mean we don’t know if we—of course, we want more than an hour with her now.”
Barbara: The photographer had come, and she’d gone back. Then, it’s 3:30—and they weren’t taking her life support until after she came out. So, we’re watching the clock. Finally, she came out.
Jake: Finally, when it was coming to the end of the shift and the nurse said, “I won’t leave”—
Rebecca: So, I held her, and we talked and we cried—but then, Beth came in and said, “Okay, are you ready?” We said, “No, we need more time, please.”
Jake: I think it was less hard for me, relative to Becca. Like, when they—
—the nurses came in, I think, one time, I told Becca, “Let’s go ahead and do it.” She said, “No, not yet.”
Rebecca: So she said, “Okay, I’ll be back in 20 minutes or so.”
Jake: When they came in, again, Becca kind of said, “No, no,” to me not really aloud. I said, “Babe, we need to do this. We need to let her go.”
Rebecca: So, when she came back the second time, we didn’t—we didn’t say anything.
Pam: My daughter who is a nurse, Lori, also had said to me, “Mom, how would you like to be the nurse that’s chosen to pull the tubes out?”
Rebecca: I replay her—the nurse coming in. Sometimes, I think I should be angry at the nurse for—but I’m not mad at her—but it all happened in slow motion. She came in.
Then, another doctor came in because she had to observe the whole thing. I just remember crying and telling her I loved her and telling Jesus to come get her quick.
Jake: Yes, it would have always felt too soon to take her off life support. So, finally, unhooked all the tubes and took her off life support.
Rebecca: I don’t know when Jesus took her, but I think it happened so fast.
Jake: We sat together on the couch and held Molly together and prayed and cried and released her into Jesus’s arms.
Dennis: I don’t know how to describe that week, but I do know that—
—Jake and Rebecca’s marriage and family are still standing. I’m reminded of Christ’s words—it’s how He finished His most famous sermon—the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew, chapter 7, He said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”
It’s about as real as we can get here as we finish the year, Bob. Either Jesus Christ is who He claims to be—that’s He’s defeated death, He’s alive from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and is able to shoulder our difficulties with us.
He is our refuge. He is our strength, and He still is the greatest homebuilder in the world.
Bob: None of us knows the trial or the suffering that may be ahead for us in 2018. We can’t know the future, but we can know the God who holds the future—and we can face whatever is ahead if our house is firmly planted on the right foundation.
Dennis: You know what’s interesting? To watch a young couple—this—Jake and Rebecca were in the early years of their marriage—this is a tough stone to have thrown at you early in your marriage—but they have grown stronger—hadn’t been easy, hasn’t been flawless—but they’ve not forgotten Molly.
They’ve gone on to have five additional children and just a great family. I have to conclude with this story.
The only time in my life I have ever cried so hard I laughed was when Rebecca called me after a couple of years—and she called me to tell me that she was pregnant—with twins—yes. I cried so hard that I laughed.
Bob: Our hope and our prayer for all of our listeners in the New Year is that if you find yourself in the valley—in a dark place—that you would also find that God is your rock, your fortress—your ever present help in times of need. Of course, here at FamilyLife, we plan to be here for you in 2018 to provide ongoing help and hope for your marriage and your family. That’s our goal. That’s our mission here at FamilyLife.
As we close out the year, if you’d like to help us with a year-end contribution, there are still a few hours available for you to do that. You can do that easily by going to FamilyLifeToday.com—or you can call to donate, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” We’ve got folks available during the day to take your call.
You can also mail your donation to FamilyLife Today. Our mailing address is FamilyLife Today at P.O. Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223. Of course, as long as your donation is postmarked before the end of the year, it qualifies for the tax advantages that come with that.
And we hope you have a great New Year’s weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend in your local church, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to start—
—doing some of that New Year’s recalibrating. We’re going to talk with Crystal Paine about how a mom can get out of survival mode and bring some order and some organization and discipline to her life and to her family’s life—all of that coming up Monday. Hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® ministry.
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