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The Inspiration of Alyssa, Payton and Gigi

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:13-14 NIV)

“Hey. What’s up?” I queried my youngest daughter after calling her on the phone Sunday night. “Oh. Hey dad. Not much,” and then a rundown of her week, which included typically mundane events and life in Kansas: work, cleaning, the new gym she and her husband just joined, their dog, upcoming travel plans with my new son-in-law, etc. I hung onto every word and felt my eyes well up as we exchanged, “Love ya,” before saying goodbye.

Monday night I drove to Charlottesville, for a long overdue dinner date with my oldest daughter. I picked her up at her apartment and we dined on Tacos at a new eatery full of Millennials and university students, followed by coffee. Again I hung onto every word. She was assigned a new student teacher to mentor, and appreciated the help in her classroom. We discussed every book she had assigned her students. We chatted about details of her upcoming wedding, and my new son-in-law to be, who is working abroad. We planned a hiking trip, weather permitting. I drove her back to her apartment, chatted a little more and was about to leave. Turning back, I asked if she wanted to catch an episode of a sitcom she had been binge watching, and had introduced me to. “Hey, if you’re busy,” I hedged, “I totally understand.” She assured me she wasn’t and so we watched and chuckled. It was getting late and she asked if I wanted to watch another episode. “I better get going,” I said, thinking about the ton of preparation I had before Bible studies, appointments and Sunday’s worship service. I started to leave, thought about Alyssa, Payton and Gigi, stopped, and said, “Yeah, that would great.” We watched and laughed some more. When I got up to leave, four hours after I first arrived, I hugged my daughter, as I always do, but this time, I didn’t want to let her go. I did of course. She’s all grown up. I got into my car and drove the hour back to Richmond, thinking about the time I spent with my daughters. That night when I hit my knees, I prayed for my daughters and wife, son-in-law and son-in-law to be, mother, caregivers, church, folks struggling with a myriad of challenges and those who don’t know Jesus. I also prayed for the families of Alyssa, Payton and Gigi.

On Sunday afternoon, prior to that precious time with my daughters, I had been shown the headline announcing the death of celebrity athlete Kobe Bryant “and eight others.” After reading the tragic story, I posted the following blurb on social media. “Ironically I just heard about Kobe and his beautiful daughter, as I concluded a "Celebration of Life," and "Home-going" service for one of our faithful members who also passed before any of us expected. As I shared God's Word with a full church of family and friends, I'll share with you. "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14 NIV).” Make the most of this unpredictable journey called life. Love, forgive, and put your faith and trust in our loving God and Savior. God bless.”

Alyssa Altobelli, Payton Chester and Gianna “Gigi” Bryant were three beautiful young daughters with their entire future ahead of them before tragedy took their young lives on that fateful Sunday. I had learned of the horrific helicopter crash only moments after presiding over a funeral. The only comfort I can take in the tragic loss of these beautiful children is the comfort I offered family and friends that same day. God loves His children and they are joyfully in His presence forever and ever. Jesus said, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand (John 10:29 NIV).”

I believe that God receives children into His loving arms immediately after they die, although I’m sure I don’t understand time in Heaven. I believe they laugh and play and dance and never have a thought of sadness. Adults on the other hand, are given various lengths of time in this life to make a decision about their eternity. My hope and prayer is that each of the grownups trusted Jesus Christ with their eternal soul. The Bible assures all of us that we are just “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes,” thus my hope is that you have made that decision to trust Christ as well. I also pray that you share the love of Jesus with someone before their mist vanishes. God bless.

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