Aldersgate Men

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Romans 8:28 (Part II)

Investigation of the accident has left many unanswered questions. What went so terribly wrong that day to cause this accident? The aircraft was well maintained. The pilot is an experienced flight instructor with many hours in this aircraft. The weather was good. The plane had barely lifted off the runway when Andy realized the engine was losing power and that he had a serious problem. He did what pilots are trained to do in such situations. He attempted to land the plane as best he could straight ahead. If this meant crashing into buildings or other structures (mobile homes in this case), so be it. The chances of survival would be far better than attempting a turn and spiraling into the ground. In a controlled crash such as this, we can expect the airplane to be bent, twisted and badly damaged, but not destroyed. Survival of the passengers, though not assured, is a real possibility. The unfortunate outcome in this instance was an intense fire fueled by a propane tank in one of the mobile homes that exploded shortly after the crash.

The prospects of the National Transportation Safety Board investigators ever being able to conclusively determine the cause of the accident are slim since the aircraft was almost totally consumed in the intense fire. While it would be nice to know the cause of the accident, having an answer will not accomplish much more than satisfying our curiosity.

There is however another unanswered question that is much more interesting. How did Andy manage to exit the airplane and avoid the same fate as Diane, Allison and Amy? Typical of most light planes, there was only one door for passengers and crew to enter and exit and it was on the co-pilot or Diane’s side. The only recollection that Andy or the local resident who pulled him to safety away from the fire have is Andy standing outside on the wing frantically trying to open the latched door to get Diane and the girls out of the burning airplane. There has been much speculation as to how Andy was able to exit the airplane. However, none of it stands up to critical scrutiny. Therein lies a great mystery. According to the dictionary an event that appears unexplainable by the laws of nature and so held to be supernatural in origin is called a miracle. Thus we have the Miracle of 235 Golf. Yes, a miracle in the midst of a terrible tragedy. Andy, though badly burned, is with us, Diane and the girls are gone.

Whether or not you believe God still works miracles, you’ll have to agree that Andy is the recipient of God’s grace. We don’t know why the events of June 25 played out as they did, but it seems God has a plan for Andy and chose to spare him from death’s grasp on that day. Andy is a witness among us to God’s grace. Lest you view this argument as just trying to put a happy face on a sad event, consider the good that occurred so far, all of it a direct result of the events of June 25.

For starters, an incredible amount of authentic Christian action has surrounded Andy since the accident. It is on a scale unprecedented in the recent memory of Forest Hills in terms of the number of people involved, the extent of the labors undertaken, and the duration of these selfless acts. Immediately and without hesitation, Andy’s church family, as well as others in the community, went to work to care for his needs. No need was off limits. From caring for the house, locating and caring for Whitney, the family dog, cutting the grass, finding and relocating Andy’s cars, locating important papers, sending him cards and letters, to visiting him in the hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania. These many acts of agape love have been an awakening to others. So powerful are these works that some former members have returned to Forest Hills to once again be a part of this loving, caring community of faith. It is often said that an important strength of Forest Hills is its church family. The tragedy of June 25 put that claim to the test, and the verdict is clear. The family Forest Hills is indeed very strong.

A scholarship fund has been established for underprivileged high school seniors in memory of Diane, Allison and Amy. In just three months the fund has reached $92,000 and is well on its way to a goal of $1,000,000. Before long needy high school seniors will begin receiving grants from the fund, a direct result of the tragedy of June 25. Lives have been changed. People on the fringe of this tragedy and its aftermath have come to realize that there really are authentic Christians among us – lots of them – and that it not only right to engage in these selfless acts of agape love, but it’s okay too.

Such acts of love and caring have not been only the work of Andy’s Forest Hills family. During the two months Andy was in intensive care at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, he was the beneficiary of countless acts of support by local Christians that he did not know and that did not know him. The body of Christ in Allentown embraced Andy during his stay and, while the doctors and nurses worked to restore his physical health, two pastors and church members tended to his spiritual and other needs. They were there for him.

The exposure Forest Hills has received in the community through the television and news media has been phenomenal. Coverage went on for weeks. In addition, hits on the church website, which normally run 100-200 a day, jumped to 1000-2000 a day. Forest Hills has become much more widely known in the community.

The tragic events of June 25 have changed lives – many for the better as they have encountered God’s grace in action. We have been touched in ways we never expected and reminded once again that God is with us even in the midst of tragedy and that we are both the recipients and the instruments of his grace. As we go forward and the pain of the tragedy recedes, the Miracle of 235 Golf will live on. As Andy gets on with his life and tells his story of the events of the summer of 2005, as scholarships are given out by the JubiLee fund, more and more people will be exposed to God’s grace and have their lives changed for the better.

The Miracle of 235 Golf like the miracles of the Bible get our attention because they are so extraordinary. Now that God has our attention with this miracle, we can see the ordinary taking place powered by God grace. By opening hearts and minds to God’s grace, lives will be forever changed and the world will have more Christians walking the talk and fueling a hunger for a way of life that is better than they have ever known.

Andy Lee's message

3 Comments:

Blogger Vern Hyndman said...

Ever watch "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"... the scene where they're finally going to be hanged. they all pray for their lives, begging on their knees. And God provides a flood that spares their lives.

And as soon as they're floating on the water, Ulysses Everett McGill starts "explaining" the even as a natural occurrance.

This truly is a miracle, and it's good that we recognize both the miracle and the Giver of all Good Things.

-vern-

8:23 AM  
Blogger The Spaniard said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:49 AM  
Blogger The Spaniard said...

Andy Lees' Testimony given at West Shoe Evangelical Free church on May 25th:

Why am I here today?

The first answer that comes to mind is….It is the Will of God.

But that could be said about why all of you are here.

Many people told me immediately after I became conscious they believed I was spared for a purpose, ….unfortunately none of them were bold enough to speculate as to what that purpose was…. but again we all have a purpose.

So really I’m here because Jeff Moshier invited me to come share my testimony with you and I wanted to meet some of his friends and say thank you for your prayers and support.

And, to continue God’s work my girls left for me to do.

So hear I am. And while I could easily fill the next ½ hour individually naming and thanking all God’s people who have helped me through this time of my life it would sound like a series of Academy Award acceptance speeches and I would bore you to tears.

Which come to think of it…
I don’t remember one person who gave thanks to God this year when I was watching them.

So I don’t fall into that same trap please pray with me.

Lord I thank you for this opportunity to share my faith journey with this body of Christ, I praise you for allowing me to experience you here on earth through your people. Now may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to you. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen

After a few months had passed and people had tired of telling me I was spared for a purpose they began to say “I don’t know how you do it.” I interpreted that statement as “I don’t know how you deal with your grief and your loss and still carry on with a positive attitude”. My simple answer was ….the Grace of God.

But when I became dissatisfied with such a simple answer I began reading a lot of books about grief and other people’s stories about how they had survived similar tragedies.

A few months ago a friend of mine gave me Judy Tatelbaum’s book “The Courage to Grieve”. In this book she writes.

“In summary, how we help ourselves through grief very much depends on our self-support, our environmental support, and our belief system. In order to be a creative survivor, it is essential that we fully develop all the supports available to us, both to enhance the quality of our lives and as insurance for future times when we may be in great need.”

When I read that it struck me as quite true. Certainly the part about “our belief system”. As I share more stories with you tonight I would like to also share with you my belief system.

As I struggled and prayed about what God would have me share with you tonight I realized that over the last 20 years of my life probably the most influential Christian writing I have studied…. other than the Bible has been Leslie Weatherhead’s book “The Will of God”.


“The Will of God” is a book of 5 sermons Weatherhead, a British pastor wrote and delivered to his congregation during WW II. As I pondered the influence this book has had on my belief system I realized that a belief system is not something I needed just to help me recover from the tragedies that come my way but it is something I need for everyday of my life.

We all have a belief system whether we consciously think about it or not.
But when I consider The Will of God as something I can seek to understand rather than something I have to accept without question I can be transformed into the person God intends for me to be..

In sharing my story about this specific tragedy I hope that you will come to a better understanding yourself about the Will of God and what that means for you.

Leslie Weatherhead has helped me understand “The Will of God” by breaking it down into three parts.
1.)The Intentional Will of God- God’s ideal plan for us.
2.) The Circumstantial Will of God- God’s plan within certain circumstances
3.) God’s Ultimate Will- God’s final realization of his purposes

Life was pretty good for the Lee family as we went into the Summer of 2005. My flight instructing career was beginning to develop into something that might be able to put some bread on the table, at least my flying had gone from being a cash drain to some positive cash flow. The girls were looking forward to spending the summer together and had plans to be really involved in several summer church missions and activities. And we were together on a family vacation. Looking back I believe we were trying our best to figure out God’s Will for our lives and therefore we were living the good life-God’s ideal plan for us or his Intentional will.

I. The Intentional Will of God- God’s ideal plan for us.

I believe the Intentional Will is probably the most misunderstood because this is what we think of when someone says about the death of a loved one…. “It is the will of God”
But that is in total conflict with a God who is all powerful and only wants good for us. I do believe God only wants good for us. So in order for me to believe God’s intentional will is only for our well being I had to put aside all the bad of what happened on June 25th 2005 and consider that under the topic of The circumstantial will of God.

And to give you some biblical reference I would like you to consider Matt. 18 vs. 14 “So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should perish…

I believe God’s ideal plan is for us to have an eternal relationship with Him that begins when we are born and continues for eternity. I’ve been taught to believe in Heaven so I can accept my eternal relationship with God is something that will be revealed to me in its time. But I asked myself how can we have that relationship here on earth?

I believe we experience a relationship with God here on earth through our interactions with his people.

So where do I see the intentional will of God working in tragedies in our lives? I believe it is in the good we see that comes out of tragedy. In my case it has been experiencing God through his people.

I could easily take up the rest of our time sharing the many stories of the outpouring of Love, prayers and action from all of God’s people directed only at me.

But in addition to all the Love that has poured out to me…God’s people created the JubiLee Scholarship Fund to provide financial college assistance to Public High School graduates The fund has already grown to over $_250,000_____ and will start awarding scholarships this summer. and …At a recent Tree planting ceremony in memory of my 13 year old daughter 4 of Allison’s friends had the opportunity to witness to God’s presence in their lives to a captive audience of 140 8th graders. At a public school.

Now I’m not going to stand here and tell you I didn’t question where God was in this tragedy but I soon realized he was there in my hospital room with me.

I saw God in the first person that told me I was spared for a purpose…. I see him right now…look across the table or next to you. God is in each and every one of you. You see I believe God is behind every act of compassion, every smile, every word of encouragement uttered. He speaks to us through his people…partly because we don’t take the time to listen to him…but I believe that is his plan for us.

We are here on earth to help God fulfill his purpose.
So, even if you don’t believe people actually see God and live to tell about it you can see God just like I have.

I believe God puts us where we are… to help each other through this journey called Life and to help each other prepare for our eternal life with him and the saints who have gone before us.

. Each one of us is here for a purpose…to help God with his Ideal plan for us.



II. The circumstantial Will of God-God’s plan within certain circumstances.

My understanding of the circumstantial will of God is what keeps me from allowing this tragedy to push me away from a relationship with him. This part of the will of God is difficult to understand ( in part because we continue to confuse it with his Intentional will…At the risk of over simplifying Leslie Weatherhead I believe that in order for us to be able to choose to follow God we have to have free will to make our own choices.

In addition there are certain laws of nature that provide a sense of order to our universe…., we rely on these laws so we can have some reasonable expectation as to what the result of our choices will be.

In this particular situation there was the obvious Law of gravity, a natural law which Wilbur and Orville Wright overcame more than 100 years ago. And we have two
human laws …1) Humans can and do make mistakes and 2) mechanical things can fail.
Bad circumstances that can get in the way of God’s intentional will for our lives.

On Feb. 28, 2006 the NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board the gov’t agency responsible for investigations of airplane accidents issued their final report ... Engine failure for undeterminable reason…Several reporter’s picked up on this and called me for my reactions…

I suppose my response to those inquiries could have been “it must have been God’s will” YES maybe God’s circumstantial will…but I never believed it was his intentional will.

So what could I conclude from this? In light of the circumstances…engine failure… the plane was forced to land…unfortunately it landed in a mobile home park and hit a propane tank. So why am I here today? That I have to accept as a Miracle. Given the circumstances I believe it is a miracle I am here today.

At the time I wasn’t able to accept it as a Miracle….

that I escaped death, don’t ask me why... maybe I just didn’t think I was worthy of a miracle…or maybe it was too many people telling me I was lucky to be here. I certainly didn’t feel lucky… Diane, Allison and Amy they were the lucky ones…they had left this earthly life to continue their eternal life with God and the other saints that have gone before them. We were the ones left to suffer the pain and sorrow of our loss.

You see I was content with my own theory of how I got out of the airplane until I heard other witnesses accounts The fact is the Piper 235 only has one door with two latches…on the passenger’s side. So my theory was that I somehow managed to get through that door without completely opening it. Once out I believed I was standing on the wing trying to unlatch the upper latch when my rescuers pulled me from the plane.

Well, that was my theory… but witnesses say they saw me come from the pilots side of the plane around the back and were only able to get to me because I slipped off the wing.
I thought sure the NTSB investigator would be able to shed some light on all this. But Guess what? Too much of the aircraft had been destroyed by the fire to be able to support or contradict anyone’s story. Unexplainable?
MUST BE a MIRACLE. But you know what? That still wasn’t good enough for me.

It wasn’t until I looked closely at some News footage and saw how close together the mobile homes were and saw with my own eyes how little of the aircraft was left that I believed my being dragged away from the wreckage alive was truly a
miracle.

And it was only the beginning of Miracles! You see I later learned that I had been assessed with a 90% mortality rate ….only a 10% chance of survival. We have become so programmed not to expect miracles we don’t see them when they happen to us. Each one of you in this room tonight is a miracle…a gift from God to those who’s hearts and lives you will touch over the years of your life.

For me more miracles were to come…On July 24th the eve of a Memorial service for our girls…. my brother reported to FHUMC that while I was probably through the worst of it they should not expect me home to Nashville before Christmas…what he didn’t share with them was that the prognosis he had been given was to plan to celebrate Xmas in Allentown, PA. Here we have another Miracle because within 3 weeks I was home in Nashville, TN. Another miracle I’ll accept as an answer to prayer.

What I haven’t figured out was whether it was the prayers of my Forest Hill Church wanting me home or whether it was the prayers of Bethany UMC and my family who were ready to be done with me.

Yes I do believe in Miracles!

And if you don’t believe that you had a part in saving my life …or in my miracle … because you weren’t there in the hospital or emergency room…You should believe it today by being here in this room right now.. you are a miracle yourself.
. You are a miracle from the day you were born until the day you pass on to the great reward of eternal life with God.

The Ultimate will of God-God’s final realization of his purposes

The ultimate will of God…I believe the ultimate will of God is to have an eternal relationship with us…
When I say I believe God is omnipotent I don’t mean I believe nothing can happen unless it is God’s will (=intention). I mean that nothing can happen which can finally defeat his purpose.



Or in other words- The only way we can defeat God’s purpose or ultimate will is to reject his Love or choose to reject a relationship with Him.

As parents we have many opportunities to give advice to our children ….On one such occasion a few years ago our younger daughter…Amy…was going on and on about how she didn’t have any control over some event that had happened to her…what she really was doing was trying to rationalize her behavior as an uncontrollable response to that event.
I listened patiently deciding not to argue with her logic, (as you can see 17 years of marriage wasn’t totally wasted on me), ….and when she finished I said, “You are absolutely right, we don’t have any control over anything that happens to us….but what we do have control over is how we choose to respond.”

A few days after I became conscious a standard psych evaluation was ordered.. The psychiatrist came into my room and said “I understand you got some bad news this week end….how do you feel about that?” Well I don’t know if it was God and Amy watching for my response or the drugs talking but my response was. “My girls have left me a lot of work to do…I need to get better and get out there and do it.” They told my sister they had never heard a response like that before….. I think instead of antidepressants they prescribed more sedatives.

But I believe those words came from God…I took them to heart…I realized God had brought me through to this point…now I had to start doing for myself. Having been raised to be a man of his word I now had the advice I gave to Amy and the words I’d spoken to the psychiatrist with my sister as a witness. From that point on I had made my choice…. there was no turning back.

Looking back on it I would have to say it was that point I had realized that God’s ultimate will for Diane, Amy and Allison had been accomplished….he wasn’t done with me.

IV Discerning God’s Will

I’ve shared with you my belief about the three parts of The Will of God and talked about how I have found comfort in knowing God’s ultimate will has been fulfilled for my girls.
And we could stop here and say they lived happily ever after.

But that is not the end of my story nor the end of our story. I mentioned earlier Leslie Weatherhead had 5 sermons and I also mentioned I believed I was spared for a purpose.

So how do I figure out what that purpose is? Or how do we discern God’s will? I believe we discern God’s will for us through prayer, reading scripture and devotional material, seeking advice from trusted Christian friends or family members, and ultimately we may reach the point we can trust our feelings because we know those feelings come from God..

I have a confession to make…a few minutes ago I told you “ From that point on I had made my choice there was no turning back.” Well about a week after that day I was at my

lowest point of despair in my life. It was 3 o’clock in the morning, I had just been through 5 hours of surgery earlier in the day, for the last three hours I had rung for the nurse every 10 minutes to have them put the blankets back on me that I had just kicked off. One minute I was freezing the next I was burning up…. the pain medication had worn off, I was missing my girls something awful…and feeling sorry for myself.

So I prayed…but not the prayer all of you were praying for my healing and for strength for me. No…I told God I was done, I wanted to die and come home and be with him and my girls…but I did throw in Jesus’ famous quote from the Garden of Gethsemane…Yet not my will but your will be done. Not long after that I drifted off to sleep and woke up about 4 hours later with my answer. And I still can’t remember whether the clock radio was playing Garth Brook’s “Unanswered Prayers” or Billy Joel singing “Only the Good Die Young”.

But I did learn what God’s will was for me at that moment.

. As I continued to struggle with my writing trying to discern what God would have me share with you May 8th’s Upper Room Devotional gave me this thought for the day. “Your story of God’s work in your life can strengthen others.”

Then May 9th’s Grace for the Moment told me how to listen to God.

I’ve learned over the past 10 months the importance of solitude, scripture study and taking time to listen to God.

V. In His Will Is Our Peace

The 5th and last sermon on The Will of God is “In his will is our peace”

I believe Weatherhead’s words…”no evil circumstances can ever befall us but we can find in them a path, which is God’s way for us just then,”

I believe we must discipline ourselves to discern the Will of God so we can find that path.

I wish I could stand here today and tell you I have found that path and the peace that God promises us if we follow Him. That certainly would make for a nice ending to my story…
But as I mentioned earlier I do have a bit of peace in my life in the knowledge that Diane, Amy and Allison are at peace. And to the extent any of you here in this room were involved in their lives I hope you can take comfort that you may have helped them find their way. Just by being here today you are helping me find my way and find my peace.

One more story while we are on the topic of Heaven. At the 8th grade tree planting ceremony Allison’s friends totally on their own chose the scripture for the program. Matt 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures here on earth, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure lies, there your heart will be also.”

Conclusion- While I hope nothing ever happens to you like what happened to me, the reality of life is “stuff happens” My hope for you is that when that time comes you can remember back to today and this talk about the Will of God. Although it is hard to make sense out of any of the tragedies we come across in life,….. by seeking God’s will for our lives…. no matter the circumstances….. we can at least get started down the path that leads to the peace in our lives he has promised us.

10:58 AM  

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