For the Time Being . . .

Tim Brister —  July 20, 2008 — 22 Comments

NOTE: For regular updates on Tom Ascol’s health condition, please see the comments section of this post.

For the past week or so, I have been wrestling where to go with the blog in writing series as well as keeping up with Blue Collar Theology and the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge (among other things). One of the desires I have is to share with you the journey I have been on that has taken me from a full-time seminary student/part-time 3rd shifter to full absorption into gospel ministry in the local church. All but the last two months of my blogging tenure has been spent in a seminary environment, and as a result, a considerable number of people who read my blog are fellow seminarians who will likely be serving in a ministerial context of some sort. Perhaps my journey, and retelling of some scenes along the way, could be profitable not only for the seminarians who are also making that great leap but also for the churches who would be receiving them.

But due to God’s providence, I have been led to a point where I understand that the place my blog is supposed to go is nowhere. At least not for the time being.

Many of you know already about the situation with Tom Ascol, whom I serve alongside here at Grace Baptist Church. Allow me to give another brief update on his condition. The last couple of nights have afforded Tom greater lengths of sleep time, which has been really good. However, the process has continued to be incredibly painful. The nerves in his body are beginning to regenerate at various parts of his body, and when they do, it is like great jolts of pain shooting to that area. So for instance, at one moment it could be his ankle, then later his hip, and a moment later his arm. It cannot be predicted when or where those jolts of pain come as the nerves regenerate, and so at any moment, things can turn from a moment of rest to restless pain. As I mentioned in the comments of my earlier post, the doctors are giving promising reports, expecting Tom to make a full recovery. But it will take time, and it will demand a change of pace and a season of rest. Please continue to pray for Tom and the Ascol family as I know they are really grateful for your support and prayers.

As you might imagine, Tom will not be able to receive email or phone calls for the immediate future. While I encourage you to comment and share your thoughts and prayers either in the comments here or on Tom’s blog, I do ask on behalf of Tom and the family that calls and emails be left to matters of necessity. I will be receiving all of his email, so I will be sensitive to respond to all matters that merit his (or his family’s) attention. I do ask that, given the circumstances, grace would be afforded to myself and others who will be attempting to administrate these tasks in a timely manner (he receives quite a bit more email than I do!). For all you Facebook users, you can also leave a message on his wall, or perhaps you could catch Tom twittering in the days ahead (though I would not expect him to).

Next Sunday, I will likely be preaching to our people on “God’s Providence and Our Pain” as I think it would be appropriate that we hear from Scripture on what God is doing here and how we can respond in faith to our loving and faithful Lord. If I may ask, please pray for me in the days ahead as well. I will be preaching and teaching 13 times over the next six weeks will be quite demanding, especially for a young novice like myself. ;) Much of that will be a series on the prayers of Paul for the churches he planted–seeking to know what specifically Paul prayed and how prayer impacts church planting. Lord willing, our church will begin the early phases of planting a church about 45 minutes east of where we are located.

Lastly, we are finally at the point of closing on a home here and are expecting to moving in at the end of this week. This is a big praise, but the season of living in suitcases in homes of members has been immensely rewarding and encouraging. I know Nolan will look forward to having his own room! :)

As a result of all that God is doing here and the circumstances I find myself, (immediate) future blogging plans will be kept to updating you on the situation with Tom’s health and perhaps posting some stuff I have benefited from in my study. I embrace with joy the plans the Lord has for me in serving His people and look forward to allotting the overflow to spill out here. It is a privilege for me to serve God, His church, and our beloved pastor, and I thank you again for remembering us in your prayers.

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22 responses to For the Time Being . . .

  1. Brother, You know that “real” life is more important than “virtual” life, but all of us need periodic reminders.

    Don’t worry about being a novice, our heavenly Father has, and will, equip you for every good work.

    We are praying for you, for Tom, and for God’s glory to be known through both of you.

    Even though you aren’t regularly updating the Puritan Reading threads, I am still planning to give away a new copy of “Meet the Puritans” at the end of the month. Details HERE.

  2. I already had pondered the wonderful providence of our Lord and his timing to have you there at this point in time. You would not be there if you were not ready. May God Bless your efforts to serve the church faithfully.

  3. As I continue to pray for Pastor Ascol and his family I will add you and yours to my prayers as you enter a new and challenging season. All things in God’s timing and providence. I greatly look forward to following your journey vicariously from the high desert of Northeastern Nevada. We have been having scattered T-storms all afternoon not much rain but plenty of rumblings and it has kept Pastor Ascol and his family in the upper most part of my thoughts. Congratulations on having a place to call your own. And I echo the sentiments of the posters above God knows exactly when and what He is doing and where you fit in the process of His plan.

  4. Jerry, Mark, and Jackie,

    Thank you for those very kind and encouraging words. Over the past couple of days, God has used men in our church to speaks gracious words of affirmation as I seek to serve go headlong into pastoral responsibilities. God has been good, and I am trusting that His Spirit will equip and empower me in this great work that lies ahead.

    Just a note on how I will proceed with updates . . .

    Unless there are any major developments, I will be providing regular updates on Tom’s health condition in this comments section.

  5. Update Sunday, July 20, 2008 :: 10:00 p.m.

    This evening was quite an emotional meeting for us at Grace. Last night, Tom had requested the opportunity to meet with the elders and deacons as well as the men of our church for a time of prayer and encouragement prior to our evening service. As the day proceeded, it became more and more apparent that he would not be physically able to be here tonight. However, we were able to set up a video conference chat with Tom so that he could see the men (and vice-versa) as we prayed for him, read Scripture, and sang together “It Is Well.” One by one, the men left their seats in the room and sat in front of the computer to encourage and pray with Tom. It was a sweet and solemn moment, where tears were abundant and love was abounding. The time of prayer continued into our evening worship which also was mingled with tears and joy.

    After the service, I had a moment to talk with one of the doctors tending to Tom (who is a member of Grace). Over the weekend, Tom has come down with a virus which could have come about either through the medication or by happenstance. Either way, this has affected his ability to breathe and communicate even more. The Ascol family is expecting to fly out Tuesday for a much-needed vacation, and we are praying that God would heal his body and remove this sickness so that the trip would be possible.

    An MRI was done with his last neurologist meeting (which I think was Saturday), and they will find out about the results tomorrow (Monday). Depending on the doctors diagnosis will also determine to some degree whether they will be able to travel. The MRI is supposed to reveal the status of his nerve endings and overall nervous system. A brain scan is also to expected to take place in the future.

    The process of regeneration of his nerves (which I mentioned earlier) is one that has no certain time period. Very few people survive lightning strikes, and as a result, there is not a lot of information available in determining or developing a timeline of healing in this area. The responses have been wide and varied–from three days to three years.

    One of the specific requests Tom has asked is that his ability to think clearly would return to him. While it may that some of the reasons for his lack of coherency of speech or clarity of thought could be due to the heavy sedation via medications (so that he could sleep better), it remains unknown at this time to what degree the shock of electricity affected his mind. Tom has a deep desire for usefulness in the Lord’s work and is asking us to pray that God would return to him the keenness and sharpness that he has had. Anyone who knows Tom can attest that he is one of the most gifted and acute-thinking minds around, and I am confident in the Lord that such giftedness and skill would be returned to him in due time.

    When Tom initially wrote his blogpost, it was shortly after the actual event of the lightning strike. The days following that post saw marked degeneration in his health that has for the most part gone unannounced. I say this not to alarm anyone but to simply reaffirm the importance of prayer and the seriousness of this issue. As Tom said tonight, however, the same God who knew where I was and brought that lightning bolt down is the same God who hung his Son on the cross for us, and the empty tomb of our Sovereign King gives us great hope and confidence that he will bring much good to us and great glory to Himself.

    Thank you for praying for Tom in this great time of need, and I will be providing more updates as I receive them in the days to come.

  6. Here is a great word from Octavius Winslow that I thought worth passing along:

    This world is not. . .
    a kingdom without a throne,
    a throne without a sovereign,
    or a sovereign without a scepter.

    By no blind accident are the
    affairs of this planet governed.

    God is in the history of the world . . .
    its past,
    its present, and
    its yet unshapen future.

    The statesman and the politician may
    not recognize this fact; but it is so.

    God rules the kingdom of providence.

    His hand is moving and controlling all events
    and circumstances, national and social, public
    and private; giving birth, and shape, and tint
    to those phenomena in the history of nations,
    and to those affairs in the history of individuals,
    which to human perception are often enshrouded
    in mystery so dreadful and profound.

    Let this view of God’s providential reign hush
    all murmurings at our lot, making us content
    with such things as we have, assured that He
    will never leave us nor forsake us.

    Let it bow our soul in meek submission to His
    sovereign will, in view of those painful and
    inexplicable events which sometimes cast the
    darkest shade upon our sunniest landscape,
    and dash from our lips their sweetest cup of joy.

    Let it incite our gratitude for the blessings
    loaned us so long, though now removed; and
    for the blessings which still remain to soothe,
    and gladden, and cheer us onward.

    Let it strengthen our faith in the
    Divine assurance that . . .
    our daily bread shall be given us,
    our path shielded amid encircling evil,
    and our soul, guided by His counsel and
    kept by His power, eventually and safely
    conducted home to glory.

    “Yes, Lord, the kingdom of providence is Yours, and
    I would see Your hand, and trace Your wisdom, and
    taste Your goodness in all the shaping and tinting
    of my whole history. I would deal alone with You in
    all the lights and shadows of my daily life. Those
    lights and shadows are of Your penciling, O Lord. If
    joy thrills my heart, it is of Your inspiration. If sorrow
    breaks it, it is of Your sending. Teach me that I have,
    in all things, to do only with You.”

    – Octavius Winslow

  7. Update Monday, July 21, 2008 :: 11:15 p.m.

    This evening I had the opportunity to see Tom for the first time since the day of the lightning strike. He is speech is slower and voice is deeper, but he is doing much better. No word yet on the MRI taken over the weekend. He was able to sit outside for a brief time and watch a little bit of The Patriot with some of the kids earlier. For me, it was greatly encouraging to see Tom, lock arms, and pray together for his health, his family, and our beloved church. As I gathered myself to walk out the door, I was given a stack of birthday cards he had written to members, reminding me that even in such difficulty and pain, Tom is thinking about others and desiring to celebrate with them in their birthday.

    This morning Tom was able to collect his thoughts and share them with the church family via email. I would like to share a portion of that letter so that you could hear from Tom himself as he provides some personal commentary and specific ways in which you could pray for him.

    (an excerpt) Tom writes . . .

    My thoughts are far from finished. My mind is far from clear.
    Sometimes I forget basic things–like people’s names or events just
    discussed. Sometimes I can’t process information quickly or clearly.
    It is like living in a mental haze. But it is getting better and all
    of the doctors I have consulted have indicated that this should
    improve. Today–Sunday–has been the best day yet. . . .

    The same God who sent the bolt of lightning through my body is the One
    who sent His Son to the cross. I have no reason to doubt His mercy and
    grace. My prayer, understandably, is that He will fully restore my
    health. If He does that, then I want to use all of my strength and
    health for the rest of my life to make Christ known. If, in His
    wisdom, He does not grant me full recovery, then I want to use
    whatever limited capacities I may have to serve Him to the utmost.

    Please pray for me specifically in the following ways:

    1. That I will not do or say or neglect anything that will dishonor
    Christ because of these events.
    2. That Donna and the kids will be full of faith, hope and joy as we
    walk this road together.
    3. That my faith will not fail, but that it will grow and be
    strengthened in every way.
    4. That the Lord will glorify Himself in specific ways before friends,
    family, doctors, nurses and others.
    5. That God will restore my mental, emotional and physical health;
    specifically that my central nervous system will be healed.

    Friends, please continue to pray for these requests. May God hear the faithful petitions of our intercession and grant these requests for the glory of His name.

  8. Praying for you guys Timmy – blessings man.

  9. The prayer warriors at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth Texas are praying for Tom’s recovery and Timmy’s filling in for Tom.

    God Bless,
    Trish Reilly

  10. gonefishing2819 July 22, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Limestone Baptist Church in Bedford, Indiana is also praying for this situation. May God be glorified!

    God bless,
    Michael Wilhite
    http://www.limestonebc.com

  11. Update Tuesday, July 22, 2008 :: 12:00 p.m.

    The Ascols left this morning for vacation, and Tom is continually seeing progress in his health while the pain still continues throughout his body. The first leg of their flight went as good as could be expected.

    The results from the MRI have come back looking good (that is, no emergency issue or immediate need). Prior to the lightning strike, Tom had been experiencing severe pain in is lower back that had forced him to bed rest and several doctors visits. The MRI reveals that the lumbar spine has some facet joint issues (described as swollen) which would explain the pain and muscle spasms he has been experiencing. Having a better idea of what the problem is via the MRI will allow for better treatment of this issue.

    I have been thinking about the great words of William Cowper this morning, and thought I’d pass them along for your encouragement.

    Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never-failing skill,
    He treasures up his bright designs
    And works his sovereign will.

    Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust him for his grace;
    Behind a frowning providence
    He hides a smiling face.

    His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flower.

    Blind unbelief is sure to err,
    And scan his work in vain:
    God is his own interpreter,
    And He will make it plain.

    As we place our confidence and trust in the Lord, may He make His perfect will plain as this bitter providence produces the sweet aroma God’s bright design. Lord, we give you our feeble minds and confess our sin of unbelief; help us to see your handiwork though your hand sometimes appears invisible. May we not trust our own interpretation nor venture to our own speculation but know that with purposes that are good and promises that are sure, we come in prayer for grace that we might treasure you in trials and rejoice.

  12. So grateful to God for Tom’s improvement and for his example of confidence in the face of trials. Thanks, Timmy, for the updates and your eagerness to serve the church.

  13. Update Tuesday, July 22, 2008 :: 11:00 p.m.

    Things are continually looking better as each day provides rest and reveals more evidence of healing taking place in Tom’s body. The family safely arrived in the backlands of Michigan where the family is enjoying time together. I hope to provide a more detailed update in the next day or so.

    Many have sent messages vial email, Facebook, and blog over the last couple of days, and I want to express my thanks to you for taking the time to do that. I am working to stay current with those who would like to send a word of encouragement or note to Tom, though I think my yahoo account overloaded today(!). Good times though. :)

    As I have done with my last couple of updates, I want to provide another excerpt–this time from John Dagg whom many of you know well. From his Manual of Theology, Dagg comments on Romans 8:28, saying:

    It should fill us with joy, that God’s infinite
    wisdom
    guides the affairs of the world.

    Many of its events are shrouded in darkness and
    mystery, and inextricable confusion sometimes
    seems to reign. Often wickedness prevails, and
    God seems to have forgotten the creatures that
    He has made.

    Our own path through life is dark and devious,
    and beset with difficulties and dangers.

    How full of consolation is the doctrine, that
    infinite wisdom directs every event, brings
    order out of confusion, and light out of darkness,
    and, to those who love God, causes all things,
    whatever be their present aspect and apparent
    tendency, to work together for good.

    When the mysteries of providence seems to cause us to feel the force of the unknown, we can trust in God’s infinite wisdom who always does what is right. As Tom said the other night before we prayed together, we cannot allow what we do not know to rob us of the things we do know. So unto the “only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ!” (Rom 16:27)

  14. Thanks for keepoing us updated. We are praying for him and posting about him on the Puritanboard.com.

    http://www.puritanboard.com/f38/tom-ascol-struck-lightning-35498/

    Be Very Encouraged,
    Randy

  15. Timmy,

    I will be praying for Tom and for you. In Christ,

    -Phil

  16. Timmy – Be assured of our prayers, but please tell me, brother – is there anything else that we at Banner of Truth can do to be of any help or encouragement to you and others there?
    Steve B.

  17. Jackie Gilliam July 23, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Timmy
    Thank you for the updates and the writings of Octavius Winslow, William Cowper and John Dagg I’ve not been exposed to them before and was very blessed by each post. We had a spectacular lightening storm move through Elko County on Monday night and I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water before bed lightening struck to the SW and SE lighting up our dining room and kitchen. I stopped and watched as the bolts danced across the low hills and mountains off to the South and marveled that God had been so kind as to allow Pastor Tom to be hit by and survive such a blast of power relatively unscathed…
    My husband and I continue to pray for you all and I have printed out the specific requests that Pastor Tom sent you, so we can keep them near and be faithful. I thank God for what He is doing in this situation and for Pastor Tom and family’s demonstration of trust in God in action. It is humbling and challenging all at the same time. What an awesome God we belong to!

  18. Update Wednesday, July 23, 2008 :: 1:30 p.m.

    This morning I received an update from Tom, and I would like to provide a portion of it here as an update. I also was able to video-chat with Tom, he is looking better by the day. The place were the Ascol’s are vacationing is perfect for them, and I am really glad that his condition did not prevent them from traveling.

    Here’s a couple of excepts from this morning . . .

    I rested fairly well last night and thought I was going to have my
    first night without pain medication. But at 3 AM, both my legs were
    hurting from my hips to my toes. It is hard to describe, sort of like
    being repeatedly poked with thousands of hot needles. It was not as
    intense as it has been on other occasions, and I am hopeful that that
    is an indication of healing taking place. My equilibrium is still not
    trustworthy. At times it is great, and at times it simply quits.
    Fortunately, there are several places here that I can comfortably sit
    and look out over the lake, and not have to move much at all. . . .

    Thank you for your love and your prayers. Please continue to ask God
    to work deeply in me through this. I would love to have my mental
    faculties restored and to be emotionally balanced and physically
    healed, but more than any of that I want Him to make me holy and get
    glory in my life and family through this. Pray that I will have wisdom
    in knowing what I should do and how I should respond to His
    providential disruption of my life.

    In conclusion to this update, I want to post another excerpt for encouragement, this time from Charles Spurgeon from his sermon “Israel at the Red Sea.” Spurgeon writes:

    How sweet is ‘providence’ to a child of God, when he can reflect upon it!

    He can look out into this world, and say–”However great my troubles, they are not so great as my Father’s power. However difficult may be my circumstances, yet all things around me are working together for good.”

    He who holds up yon unpillared arch of the starry heavens, can also support my soul without a single apparent prop.

    He who guides the stars in the well-ordered courses, even when they seem to move in hazy dances–surely he can overrule my trials in such a way that out of confusion he will bring order; and from seeming evil, produce lasting good.

    He who bridles the storm, and puts the bit in the mouth of the tempest, surely he can restrain my trial, and keep my sorrows in subjection.

    I need not fear while the lightnings are in his hands, and the thunders sleep within his lips, while the oceans gurgle from his fist, and the clouds are in the hollow of his hands, while the rivers are turned by his foot, and while he digs the channels of the sea.

    Surely he whose might gives wings to the angels, can furnish a worm with strength. He who guides a cherub will not be overcome by the trials of an emmet like myself.

    He who makes the most ponderous orb roll in dignity, and keeps its predestined orbit, can make a little atom like myself move in my proper course, and conduct me as he pleases.

    Christian! there is no sweeter pillow than providence! And when providence seems adverse, believe it still, and lay it under your head. For depend upon it- there is comfort in its bosom.

    There is hope for you, child of God! The great trouble which is to come in your way in your pilgrimage, is planned by love, the same love which shall interpose as your protector.

    – Charles H. Spurgeon

  19. Bro. Tim,
    Thanks for the updates on Tom. He is my little brother and I feel so helpless, but I know that God will take care of him. Donna is such a wonderful wife and mother and the kids are so family-oriented that I know he is getting well taken care of. I know he knows you and Ken are more that able to take care of things in his absence. Then there is Barb and Don. God has certainly blessed Grace Baptist Church. May God continue to pour out His Holy Spirit on each one of you. Our prayers are continually lifted up for you all and for Tom’s healing and God ‘s glory. In Christ, Al and Carol

  20. Thank you for the updates. My prayers and thoughts are with the Ascol family.

  21. I am praying for Pastor Ascol prompt recovery. Our God is powerful and I know he is taking care of him and his needs at this time. Blessings to him and the family.
    I have not met you yet due to circumstances but hope to get a chance to do so soon.
    Welcome to our Church and community.

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