Any of you adventure-lovers out there???
Anybody love to go white-water rafting?
My first and ultra-frightening experience with white-water rapids occurred while attending tennis camp. (Makes perfect sense…) My roomie and I were canoe partners and the counselors advised, “Now there are three sets of rapids on this river. Be on the lookout…”
Wonderful. No instruction. No advice. Nothing. (Never mind we campers were wee campers too!)
We successfully went thru’ the first set of rapids…Backwards. Somehow we managed to finish in one piece, without capsizing, famished for lunch (perish the thought we miss a meal), and off we went to tackle another tennis lesson, unscathed. God was gracious.
I do recall making a mental note to not pursue any more rapids in a canoe. Even a calm creek flipped me out years later with hubby John and two of our three boys. Somehow I managed to get us stuck in the middle of five huge boulders. Hello?
Onward!!! After receiving several recommendations to read To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story by Mary C. Neal, MD, I snatched it up and began reading.
Mary has a knack for building and maintaining suspense while increasing the reader’s heartbeat! Oh, and right back to white-water rapids we go….only this time, Mary is the captain, solo, in a kayak. “While cascading down a waterfall, her kayak became pinned at the bottom and she was immediately and completely submerged.”
To complicate matters, this didn’t happen in the United States. Mary and her husband Bill, were with friends who are experienced guides, on the Los Rios River in southern Chile. (Keep in mind they are both orthopaedic surgeons!!!)
Once the group realized Mary was missing, one of the gals timed how long it took to find her. (Some say anywhere from 15-30 minutes, underwater, with no oxygen.).
Frightened and in a panic, her friends were able to bring her out of the river, onto the beach. Mary’s body was blue and she was not breathing. Tom, Kenneth and Chad Long immediately began the resuscitation process.
Some in their group tried to dissuade the rescue attempt, claiming Mary would be a vegetable, having gone so long without oxygen. But Mary was the Long’s friend, thus they doggedly prayed and begged Mary to breathe.
Meanwhile, Mary tells us after her body was pulled by the current out of her boat, all the while under water, both of her knee bones broke. Even more astonishing, she said she felt no pain and felt her soul leave her body.
Mary said, “I rose up and out of the river, and when my soul broke thru’ the surface of the water, I encountered a group of fifteen to twenty souls (human spirits sent by God) who greeted me with the most overwhelming joy I’ve ever experienced and could ever imagine…Their brilliance was both blinding and invigorating.
As she’s seeing what seemed to be Heaven, she could still hear the Longs calling for her, yelling at her to breathe. She returned to her body three different times to take a breath.
However, she didn’t want to leave the love, joy, and peace of Heaven and being with Jesus. She said, “I knew with absolute certainty that I was being held and comforted by Jesus.” What hope!
Finally, one of the spirits or angels tells her it is not yet her time and she must return to earth. Upon her return, you cannot begin to fathom Mary and Bill’s arduous trip back to the States, the reunion with their four young children, and her long road to recovery. Don’t miss these details!
A couple more hope-filled tidbits: while still in the hospital, Mary realized her vision wasn’t quite right. Yet with blurred vision, she pressed on to read a Bible in her room. She “proceeded to look for verses about gaining strength, looking to the Psalms.”
Three favorites are journal worthy:
Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (NIV)
Psalm 91:15 “When you call to me, I will answer you. I will be with you when you are in trouble. I will save you and honor you.” (God’s Word)
Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (NRS)
One verse in particular was crystal clear to her: I Thessalonians 5:16 – “Rejoice always.” (ESV)
Mary believes this was “a directive from God.” She said, “I thought about the fact that a joyful heart and a joyful spirit are important to God…Joy is clearly different than happiness. It is not based on circumstances. Joy is a state of mind and a state of being. It reflects a conscious choice to believe in the promises of the Bible.”
The next verse, later that day, became clear to Mary’s vision: I Thessalonians 5:17 – “Pray without ceasing.” (ESV) She adds, “It instructs us that we should live a life of prayer, continuously offering silent prayers with every breath we take, and listening for God’s leading.”
The last verse she was able to see was: I Thessalonians 5:18 – “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (ESV)
As God would orchestrate, these three verses in I Thessalonians 5 were all Mary was able to read. Everything and everyone else was blurry. She read and re-read these verses over and over.
If you think her time in Heaven is interesting, wait ‘til you read about her encounters with Angels! She shares about several eye-opening and thought-provoking discussions. (You’ll want to share these with your loved ones.)
Next week, we’ll finish up Part Two and briefly discuss more incredible books about Heaven!
Enjoy one of many interviews with Dr. Mary Neal: (For more, checkout her website: www.DrMaryNeal.com )
‘Til next time!