Everyday Is A Gift


On Tuesday, August 12, we got the tragic news that our friend, Orley Miller, was killed in a freak horse and wagon accident while driving some of his family through an animal park near Berlin. A week later, I was having breakfast at the Mt. Hope Auction when the phone rang. It was Lydia.

“Jerry's wife, Mary Ann, died this morning!”

Jerry Schlabach had been sick and nauseated with hepatitis C medication for close to a year, so I realized that Lydia was so distraught that she got it mixed up.

“You mean Jerry?”

“No! Mary Ann!”

“Mary Ann!! How can that be?! She was the strong and healthy one!”

Since that fateful August 12th Tuesday notice, at least six people from this area that I knew well have passed into eternity. Thankfully, everyone of them was ready to go. But we weren't ready to let them go. Especially Orley and Mary Ann. Orley left a young wife and six children, ages 1-14. He was an excellent teacher in an open enrollment school, which is very unusual among Amish schools. Amish schools are purposely 'regional' so that the students can walk. If someone lives more than a couple of miles away, another school is built. But Apple Valley had a waiting list and some students lived too far away to walk, so they came by horse & buggy, bicycle or hired a driver. To give you a glimpse of how special Orley was as a teacher, one student was heard to lament, “Now we're just going to be like every other normal school.”

Mary Ann and Jerry often went to prison services with us. She had nursed Jerry through a year of medication that made him sick and discouraged. This procedure wasn't guaranteed to cure him from the Hepatitis C that he contracted from a blood transfusion, but just a month ago the doctor declared Jerry healed, and now they could resume life as normal again. Then on August 20th Mary Ann died very unexpectedly of a heart attack.

In 2001 I went to the hospital to visit my good friend, Jr. Miller (Josie's), who had been hit by a car while riding his bicycle. Tubes were coming out all over the place and he was breathing with the help of a machine. As I looked at his struggling body (we know now that he had already departed) I made a vow: I will never take another day of life for granted. I had made that promise before, but this time I think it stuck. More than 4800 days have passed since that sad hospital visit and I'm sure that on more than 95% of those days I have thanked the Lord for another day of life. I'm more and more aware that I am not guaranteed tomorrow. Or tonight. I woke up to a “normal” day today. Just like Orley did on August 12. Just like Mary Ann did on August 20. But God called them home on those 'normal' days. We didn't know it, but their work on earth was done.

I don't know when my 'work on earth' will be done. I hope it is not today. I've got plans. I still haven't seen any grandchildren. Maybe I'll still get a chance to sing on the Grand 'Ole Opry. There are prison services scheduled. We're reminded to live each day “...very carefully... not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity (King James: 'redeem the time'), because the days are evil. Therefore... understand what the Lord's will is.” Eph. 5:16

I want to live my life so that I can say what D.L. Moody said:

"Some day you will read in the papers, 'D. L. Moody of East Northfield is dead.' Don't you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal; a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body. I was born of the flesh in 1837. I was born of the Spirit in 1856. That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit will live forever.” - Dwight Lyman Moody (1837-1899)

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John was singing in a country western band at the time of his conversion in 1972. God changed his desire for stardom in Nashville to minitstry.

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