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What Paradise Lost, Heaven hath Gained…#singforSophie

Alone I walked, contemplating all that had transpired.

The canopy overhead was quickly changing from its autumn wardrobe to the haunting skeleton of winter. In the distance, a cold front approached. A sense of foreboding loomed, causing me to seek my daily walk sooner, than later. I pulled my collar up against the chill and hurried my pace.

A single leaf drifted toward my face as I walked, then danced ahead as if skipping along in thought. I stopped walking and watched the wondrous image to see where it might land. Its flight led my eyes to the rocky cliff along the trail. Granite boulders covered with moss and lichens formed the backdrop that towered far above where I stood. Intertwined in the rock were roots and vines, like the veins of a being, resting for time immemorial. “How long they had been there? How long would they be there after we are gone,” were the thoughts that passed through my head as I pondered at that moment.

Our lives often seem fleeting as the fallen leaves when compared to those of stone walls.

The Word tells us that we are nothing more than like the grass of the field, the flowers will fade away, and the grass will surely die. “…because, All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man[b] as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away,25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” – 1Peter 1:24-25

The flowers of the field are a beauty to behold, but nothing can prepare us for when those precious blooms are picked before their prime.

Even though the distance is far, the thought is ever present of one such precious bloom being picked; a recent tragic loss of life.

Last week, an automobile accident in Indiana saw three generations of the one family perish. The Reinhart family, in one fatal night, lost their father David, grandmother, Ruth Ann, and daughter, Sophie. I had heard about this tragedy through my cousin Jeff, who had not only been friends with the father since childhood but likewise, his daughters had been close friends with Jeff’s. Sophie was a star of the Castle High School marching band and school choral group, “The Castle Sensations.” They had been returning late from a band competition in Indianapolis when the Reinhart’s car hit a deer. Fearing the car might not make it any farther, David pulled off the road to assess the damage. The next thing was the sound of squealing tires, lights, and the explosion of the impact.  A drunk driver crashed into their car, in what became a multi-car pileup on the interstate; a horrific tragedy, and an unbelievable loss to the small communities of Paradise, Newburgh and the surrounding area of Indiana.

We never want to hear the news, nor get that phone call of events like this, yet it happens.

Many ask, “Why does God allow things like this happen to good people?”

Often, the answer that sometimes helps is, “Because it strengthens those who are left behind.” But there are times when that answer just doesn’t seem justifiable, especially when there is one too young to carry the burden remaining.

When my cousin Mike passed, we had all gathered around grandma’s kitchen table and were struggling to make sense of it all. Mike had just turned 21 and was a more than just a towering figure to the rest of us kids, but he was also someone we looked up to as our leader, our rock to whom we could turn. Now, there we all sat, trying to understand the how and why of it all. Her hand emerged from behind the crowd surrounding that ancient kitchen table, leaning into the center and placed a yellow lily sitting in a clear glass of water into the middle. My cousin Peggy asked, “What is that for grandma?” We all turned to look at her. There was but a shimmer of a tear in her eyes as she replied solemnly, “When you walk into a field of flowers, don’t you always pick the prettiest one?”

“Yes,” Peggy replied, in a hesitant, wondering tone.

“God needed another beautiful flower for the Master’s bouquet.”

All of our eyes turned toward the new single centerpiece of that table and thought of all the fond memories of Michael. It was a moment I will never forget. It was as if she had asked God to speak to each of us, comforting us each by our own memories; peace enveloped that tiny kitchen so long ago as Jesus helped us through another dark time. Grandma prayed over us all as Jesus touched our hearts.

In all of the sorrow of that horrific wreck on that dark, lonely road in Indiana, there was a single shining light. One flicker of hope for the family that had in an instant suffered so greatly, a lone survivor. Dave’s other daughter who was riding with them miraculously endured the disaster with only minor injuries. In the coming days, weeks, and years, that young daughter’s faith, as well as the rest of the family, will be tested. They will have to learn what substance is hoped for, in the evidence of the things that cannot be seen. The surviving daughter will relive that night for the rest of her life, that night where in the blink of an eye, her world became a living nightmare. They will have to lean on the everlasting cross, for in Him, they will find the strength and comfort to carry on.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things unseen.”- Hebrews 11:1

All of this turns through my mind as my trail twists and turns through the ever-changing forest. “Why God, do you not let me walk in peace,” I asked, looking into the clear blue skies? A flurry of leaves swirl above me, then rush ahead disappearing into the darkness. 

A child, her sister, and their mother are left to carry on in a world that’s been altered from what seemed like the path that God had chosen. Ripped from its foundation, their very existence has been skewed so that now, they have to face a reality that seems anything but real.

My pathway passes the rapids on the Johns River where I stop to pause once more.

Then came the voice, “What Paradise has lost, Heaven has gained.”

God calls us home at the most unexpected times. Those that heard the beautiful, gracious young lady sing in person can easily see Sophie joining the angelic choir as her father and grandmother proudly look on; it has to be, it just does.

The heaviness for those mourning the loss of loved ones is felt in my heart as I watch the water pass over the rocks in gushing, white torrents.

Life is like the river.

Time is constantly passing like the current, with moments of upheaval and dire consequences when the world collides against those granite edifices creating chaos. In theses chaotic moments, we find our faith with both hands and embrace it tightly to our chests. When they slowly ebb back to normal, we return to the gentle currents where we seemingly pass from day-to-day unthinking; yet, constantly, time is passing on, like the current. Around a bend the water finds a swirling pool where the rush of life comes to a halt, peace and calmness follow. God’s purpose even in the time of great upheaval can find serenity and healing. Eventually, the water and life continue, time passing on, as the current flows onward.

What we lose on earth, heaven finds as a reward. We can find comfort in knowing that there is an even greater joy when we reach that golden shore. There waiting for us will be an angel dressed in white singing for all the ages.

These things we can only pray, for all those affected, for all those hurting; God is there for each of you.

These things we pray in God’s Holy Name,


Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions;[a] if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” -John 14:1-4

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The Doctors’ Street…

The following article was written following a recent fieldtrip taken by the Goldston United Methodist Church’s writers’ group, “The InkSpots”. We were blessed to have had the unique opportunity to tour the Street family homestead and to hear the stories of healing and faith. We found a treasure trove of inspiration from which to write and hope that someday, this precious gem of history will be preserved for generations to come to visit and be likewise inspired. Thanks to our hosts, Al Simmons and Paul Paschal whom without, this journey would not have 5049398450_bd137a0d54_zbeen possible.


We turned off the main road onto the lane that led past a small pond to the homestead of the Street family. The structures were weathered and gray as one might expect from buildings that were over 100 years old. We were not there to learn as much about the buildings as we were to hear about the people that made them come alive with hope and relief. The family that lived here were as much about the spirituality of living as they were the physicality. The Streets, as they were named, would become known far and wide for their care and perseverance for their patients; this was the homestead of the Doctors’ Street.

2013-08-02 15.17.21Considering the age of the buildings, they were all in very good shape. There had evidently been many hands over the years that had maintained these aged edifices as well as preserving the story of the families that made them the historical structures for which they were known. Large oaks and cedars surrounded the buildings providing shade in areas of the fresh mown lawn. Here, often at the first light of dawn, the doctor would find the yard filled with wagons and in later years, cars, which had parked waiting for the good doctor to awaken. In other words, the grounds surrounding the office and home became the waiting room for patients who made the long trek during the night, being too ill to wait for morning.

The original structure of the doctor’s office was built in the late 1700s and used as a law office of a former governor of North Carolina. The law office would later be used by the first Doctor, Richard Street. The Richard returned from the civil war and took up medicine, practicing initially only in the former law office, and then eventually expanding the building adding on a back structure, shaped as a “T”, that would house additional rooms for examination, pharmaceuticals and an administrative office. It was not known if Richard had practiced medicine in the civil war, but there was an old medical saddle bag on display which was very worn that could have easily have been used on those ancient battlefields. What motivated the young Mr. Street to become a doctor one can only speculate. Having lived through the horrors of war, there were likely more than enough traumatic battlefield scenes which could have easily been the impetus for his lifelong pursuit.

Throughout the doctor’s office, there were large brown bottles of chemicals and compounds used to make medicines2013-08-02 15.02.27 that the doctor would administer to his patients. Likewise, there were volumes of ledgers, medical manuals and various reference materials. I quickly got the feel that Dr. Street was a beacon of hope in the darkness in a landscape of medical poverty. He not only applied his craft but continually strove to further his abilities to do so. When we read the signs outside of most modern medical facilities we read the term, “Medical Practice of…”. In the case of the late Dr. Street, this was not only a statement, but a fact made obvious by his self-imposed continuing education. He was not only the doctor, but also the pharmacist, specialist, surgeon and even eventual caretaker. From the act of bringing life into the world to the act of consoling the families of those patients that he could not save, the dust on the books of memories belied the stories within that a painful heart would have been driven to pursue excellence beyond the weathered walls in which he inhabited. We were made aware that often, his patients would stay for extended periods of time in his home either to recover or to prepare for eventual medical needs like giving birth. As I stood in one of the upstairs rooms of the home, I could almost sense the lives that entered and passed to and from this world in that room comforted by the man they called Doc.

In addition to continuing his self-education, Dr. Street also strove to educate his fellow medical peers by speaking and writing about the need for more “Diagnostic Medicine”. He felt that too many young doctors were coming out of medical school and going into specialized surgery rather than focusing on the diagnostic medical practice. More than once our host and descendent, Al Simmons, found reference in letters to the doctor of how his diagnosis of some rare ailment or disease would sometimes years later be confirmed. In other words, when Doc Street told you that you were sick, you could count on it.

Dr. Richard StreetIn the book cases filled with countless medical volumes, there were also several worn Bibles. My interest was piqued since I knew that many times the family genealogy would have been preserved in the “Family Bible”. Upon inspection of the Bibles on hand, I didn’t find any genealogy information but I did find line after line of scripture references, obviously favorites that someone had written for easy access, either for future reference or when a spiritual chord was struck. I was moved to find that the Street’s were as known for their strong Christian faith as they were for their medical practice. A local church even began in one of the front rooms of the house. This only confirmed my belief that this place was a haven of recovery and health for the whole being; an Eden in the wilderness.

Here I found the true meaning of “Practice”, with regard to medicine. Over the years, through countless struggles to preserve the health of those terminally ill, through tomes of medical literature the good doctor would pour until he had exhausted all known medical knowledge; he then would turn to the Almighty for prayer. Each painful loss only fueled his drive, his passion to prevent it from happening again. Each time, he would become better at what he did, continually striving to better himself, not only as a doctor, but also as a Christian. In essence, he practiced what he preached, and strove to become a better man while here on this earth for it.

As I watched my children observe, listen and record this visit to an underappreciated historical treasure and landmark, I could only hope that in some far away recess of their minds a spark was lit to pursue life in the same manner in which the good doctors had done.  Dr. Richard Street had made such an impact on his community and family that eventually not only his son, but his grandson would likewise follow in his footsteps, practicing medicine and making the world a better place. In life, we often struggle and toil in the moment, sometimes losing focus for what matters most. When our livelihood entails life itself, our perspective changes and suddenly the reality of mortality changes us making us either better or worse for it, depending upon our character. It was obvious from the archives and treasures left behind by the family of doctors that they had all been better for it, and so were we.

What began as a casual conversation with Paul Paschal and I before Christmas of last year turned out to be a discovery of healing and faith. I saw a lady in her seventies turn into a little girl once more and saw teenagers enthralled by the antiquity of a medical practice almost unheard of in today’s fast paced world. God leads us in paths we never can imagine, and last Friday was one such day I’ll not soon forget.


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