It's scary when your friends die

"'s Tana." Just the way she said those three words with the inflection in her voice I knew something was terribly wrong as I answered the phone today at work.

"Mark is dead. It was a massive heart attack."

I couldn't even wrap my mind around those words. I was away in Gatlinburg for a week and ignored the rest of the world and now I come back to find out a friend of mine and Larry's from bible college who was actually in our wedding just dropped dead of a heart attack. I can't believe it.

That makes two people who were in our wedding who are now...gone from planet earth. Larry's sister in her 20's, and now Mark at just 40. Amazing.

Tana and I both just sat there today going, "we can't believe it..." She called me while I was in Tennessee but didn't want to leave such a horrible, shocking message. So, he's leaving behind his wife and two little girls. And the thing is...his dear parents (also pastors) must just be beside themselves losing their precious son. It's just not natural for a child to die before the parents do.

Obviously I know Mark is in heaven - he was a Godly man who loved Jesus so much. It's not scary wondering where he is. It's just scary because...he's so young! Hello... he was OUR AGE.

It was just this past year that he e-mailed me telling me new things going on in his and his wife's life - new opportunities from the Lord - that he was so excited about. Now he's gone.

All I have to say is, number one - that's a tragedy. And number two, I can't even describe how glad I am that I have lost 40 pounds in recent years and also convinced Larry to go on weight watchers. Right after vacation I got him right back on track. Months ago I was so frustrated with him and worried about him that I gave him an ultimatum. "You either go on weight watchers or a good equivalent to it, or...I will call the insurance company and double the insurance policy immediately. Because if you devastate me and die by dropping dead of a heart attack, I at least want to have a whole lot of money to try and soothe myself." (Of course it wouldn't completely soothe me but being broke never made anyone feel better...) Actually it was just a straw I grasped at to try and make him wise up. Since Larry is EXTREMELY conservative financially I knew he wouldn't take very kindly at all me calling up the insurance guy and doubling our policy!!! He was really mad.

There aren't very many times I give an ultimatum or say, "look here this is the way it is" but this was one of them, just like I'm vigilant about him getting his skin checked (after having skin cancers removed last year.) Sometimes on things like this I don't give him a choice. I don't even ask him to get skin checks anymore. I just call up the doctor, make an appointment and say, "this is the day you're going." If God decides for some reason to take him, just out of the blue without him doing anything to cause it, that's one thing. But it's another thing for him to allow it by not taking care of himself. If he does that...well, I'll just kill him!!! :-)

Yes, it's scary when your friends die. Because you realize as young as you can happen to you too unless you take the very best care of the body God has given you to go through this life with. Just as an alcoholic or drug addict doesn't think about the harm they are putting not only themselves but their family through, so a person who is killing themselves by overeating also doesn't realize what they are putting their family through. Nicole will now be raising these two little girls alone. A widow at 40. And the sad thing is, it didn't have to be that way.

Getting in shape is a spiritual thing, no matter how you slice it. I know that's tight, but it's right. People don't want to hear it. They cry when you speak on it at church. I have had people walk out when I just briefly touch on the subject. Because they are broken hearted about it - they feel out of control, uncomfortable with the subject, angry with themselves for being this way but doing nothing yet to change it. I know, I understand it. I used to be one of those people. And if there's anything I could say to people to get through to their heart about this is that the only thing I regret is NOT DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT SOONER.

Having the best body you can have is essential to life and ministry because without it, you can't move, breathe, and do what God has called you to do in this life. How could I fulfill all the dreams God has given me if I can't even get around to do them? If I can't walk without huffing and puffing? If I can't have energy to put into my call? If I can't do fun things with my children like go on trips and walk places or play DDR together?

This is why the bible says, "know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?" It's scary when your friends die so young, so soon. But I'm convinced that God's will is that we learn from these tragedies and determine to take good care of ourselves and add years to our life, and LIFE TO our YEARS! 

Goodbye Mark. love you, and we'll see you on the other side. Heaven just got one of the best piano players that every walked the face of the earth. Now Anthony Burger has somebody to play a duet with.