Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A display of divine greatness and mercy

Monday night will go down as one of the most unusual in the Ascol household. As those of you who have followed my twittering or facebook updates have read, last night I received the shock of my life. Literally. Here's the story.

It was a dark and stormy night. Again, literally. We were several hours into one of our famous Florida electrical storms. The skies looked similar to this photo, which was taken out our back window a couple of years ago.

Around 1:30 AM police were at our home investigating a possible burglary (in our garage--which is a whole 'nother story of its own!). After determining that if someone broke into our garage, he (or she) was gone, one of the officers strongly suggested that I lock the doors on our cars in the driveway, due to a rise in robberies from automobiles in the last year. He and his colleague suggested that we all go investigate whether anything was missing from the cars and to secure them.

It was still raining--by that time more than 2 inches had fallen in the previous 12 hours. And, the skies were still being illuminated by lightning and impressive thunder. I went out first, barefooted and wearing shorts and t-shirt, and walked up to our Buick Skylark. In a perfectly timed instant, the moment my right hand gripped the door handle the most brilliant flash of light and loudest crack of thunder I have ever witnessed provided a most electrifying experience.

Beginning at my right hand and traveling up my arm, down my side and right leg and foot, I got the shock of my life. I was thrown back several feet and on to the ground. The policemen let expletives fly and hovered over me, asking me questions that made no sense. Another bolt of ligtning struck nearby and they helped me up and back inside my house, as they called for paramedics. The ambulance arrived within minutes and 4 paramedics started checking me out by running various tests on me, including an ekg.

By God's grace I remained fully conscious and showed no signs of being burned. I declined their offer to go to the hospital. After giving me further instructions, they left, I changed clothes and futiley tried to go back to sleep. After getting up and quietly reflecting on the night's events for a couple of hours, I was able to wind down around 4:30 and get some sleep.

This afternoon my doctor helped me understand the nauseated and dizzy feelings that crept over me. My nerves, he said, have been "inflamed" and would take a while to calm down. The good news is that I never lost consciousness and there is no evidence of neurological damage (though some would probably challenge that). Basically, it is as if I am at my wit's end all the time. Noise, bright lights and too much movement are...well, nerve wracking! He gave me an injection and ordered some other medications and put me on 48 hours of bedrest. That is where I am as I blog this. In my pajamas. ;-)

The hope is that I will recover sufficiently to preach Sunday (though I have had to pull out of teaching Dads and Sons Wednesday and will miss a couple of days of our Pilgrim's Progress VBS) and then to travel to a board meeting for the Midwest Center on Monday, after which I will meet my family for several days of vacation. That will take me into the month of August which has been set aside for a brief sabbatical, part of which will be spent traveling.

What all of this together means is that I anticipate very little blogging over the next 6 weeks.

Though our family has been able to see some humor in all of this, we are also aware of its seriousness and are very grateful to the Lord for His mercy in these events. I recognize that His mercy and goodness would not have been diminished in the least had the lightning killed me. Nevertheless, His mercy has been manifested to me in that not only have I been spared serious injury, but also the frayed-nerves-feeling seems to be slowy improving.

Several friends have let me know of their prayers, and I am deeply grateful for these displays of grace and kindness to me.

The Lord reigns. As Elihu confesses, He sovereignly directs both thunder and lightning. By these heavenly displays He gives a clear witness of His greatness, in the words of Matthew Henry, "even to the most stupid and unthinking." Even I got that.

"At this also my heart trembles,
And leaps from its place.
Hear attentively the thunder of His voice,
And the rumbling that comes from His mouth.
He sends it forth under the whole heaven,
His lightning to the ends of the earth.
After it a voice roars;
He thunders with His majestic voice,
And He does not restrain them when His voice is heard.
God thunders marvelously with His voice;
He does great things which we cannot comprehend."
Job 37:1-5



Bob Cleveland said...


I'm so glad you're ok. I had a similar, albeit somewhat less serious, episode in 1960, which is still breathtaking when I stop to think about it.

My prayer is that God will use this for His, and your, good.

John said...

What an experience. We are thankful for God's mercy toward you, too. May He give you strength and grace over the next busy weeks.

That will make a good sermon illustration some day, I'm sure.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Praying for you brother.

Wyman Richardson said...

Wow! I'm praying for you too brother. Man alive that's scary! We'll pray for you tonight in our prayer meeting as well.


P.S., After it happened did you pray, "Saint Anne, help me! I'll become a monk!"? [Sorry, couldn't resist! :-)]

Bart Barber said...

Wow! Glad you're still vertical.

Resist any impulses to join a monastery (an attempt at a little Reformation humor, there).

The Cooke Family said...


Wow! What an experience! Way to get up close an personal with the power of God!!
You are in our prayers.

God Bless.

SJ Camp said...

I can't believe this happened to you my friend!?!

Praise the Lord for His protection and mercy in your life AND that you are still here to tell about it.

I will be praying for you, Donna and the kids during these days of recovery and healing.

I love you Tom...

Thomas Clay said...

The lightning falls on the just and the unjust...

What a frightening common grace experience! :-) :-)

B Nettles said...

A man standing at rest at his car is struck by lightning. If the launch angle is 30 degress and he lands on his ... um... backside, 2.52 meters away, how much energy was deposited in the man?

Thanks for the great physics problem, Tom. My students will love you for it!

I'm glad you're okay, but please take your time in returning. Fried and frayed nerves take a while to heal. Look at this as a God-given opportunity to slow down.

All the Best, brother

J.D. Rector said...

I know you are probably a little weary of the humor being portrayed by the comments, but... what are you trying to do? "Outdo" the religious nut that was in the media forefront up in Lakeland recently?

Seriously, I will continue to pray for you, your family, and your ministry. I pray that you will get the proper rest that you need for your body to completely recover and heal!

Tom said...

Thanks to all for your kind words and especially your prayers. Today is better.

Wyman and Bart:

I thought about Luther, and almost promised St. Anne I would become a lawyer!


Spoken like a true physicist! If you figure out the answer to that problem, email me!


We are appreciating the humor in it more and more. By God's kindness, Monday I listened to a sermon that CJ Mahaney preached the day before on "Don't Waste Your Humor." It was timely. I think there is a way to laugh at ourselves without dismissing the serious realities that always attend us, and sometimes attend us in dramatic ways.

C. M. Sheffield said...

Well, you know what our theological opponents will make of this incident, right? (if only within themselves) ;)

Love ya Tom. Get well and keep at it.

Baptist Theology said...


That is exactly how I felt after I was hit by a truck last year. I will pray for you and a smooth recovery.

In Christ,

Tom Hicks said...

I'm glad to hear that you're OK!

GUNNY said...

Got a little story for ya, Aggies ... Rock the good Ag survived quite a scare!

Scary stuff and a great reminder of our frailty and God's providence.

On a side note, are you using a particular curriculum for that Pilgrim's Progress VBS?

That sounds very interesting.

GeneMBridges said...

I saw the liiight, I saw the liiight!

Sorry, had to go there...irresistible grace, you know.

God is glorified in our shorts and barefoot and in our p.j.'s.

Will said...

Obviously the Lord is not done with you here yet. I'm glad. Praise Him for His deliveratnce.

Brian Hamrick said...

Praising God for His mercy toward you, Tom. My campus minister was hit by lightning about 15 years ago. Praying for a swift recovery.

Tom said...


It is a curriculum that we have developed ourselves. It is, if I may say so, very good. It only covers part 1, but we hope to write up part 2 in the next year or so. My daughter, Sarah, has been very instrumental in getting it all together (along with several others in the church). Shoot me an email and I will send you her contact info if your interested in learning more. Our news paper ran a story on it that you can read here.

Thomas Clay said...


I and one of my interns is actually writing a children's musical based on Part 1 of Pilgrim's Progress. We're planning on doing it Aug. 2009. When it's done, I'll try to get it to you.

Ray Van Neste said...

Wow, Tom!
I am glad you are OK. I wil pray as you recover. Thank you for the wise applications you have shared here from the incident.

JamesL said...

"I thought about Luther, and almost promised St. Anne I would become a lawyer!"
That was very funny! I am glad to know the Lord preserved you for further ministry. Hang in there and Lord bless you!


Carla said...

Wow, what a frightening experience. Thanks be to God that you suffered no more ill affects than you have.

Sort of gives "the power of God" a whole new perspective.

Pastor's Perspective said...

Praying for your full recovery!

Greg Welty said...

Don't Waste Your Lightning

pregador27 said...

I will add your health to our family's prayers. We will trust in God for your speedy recovery and a good time to rest and reflect on Him.

DoGLover said...

I bless God for sparing you, brother. I pray you'll come through it all even better than before.

David Milton said...

Prayed for you, Tom.

Was the Buick prev. owned by a five-pointer? You know what happens when "like charges" connect...

xfrmdxrenewal said...

We are praying for you and your family that you be healed and that you all get exactly what God purposes for you out of this trial. That said I was blessed beyond words as I read your blog post before I went to bed last night. The theology you had in place before the trial really struck me and I actually woke my husband up and read your entire post to him. Good thing God commands y'all to love us or murder might quickly become an alternative. :) I've been dealing with a bulging disk for the last couple of weeks and you reinforced my belief that nothing comes to our lives without going through our Fathers hand first and it is for our sanctification and His glorification. I have really tried to remember to pray for His purpose to be accomplished in trials not just for the trial to pass quickly, for myself and any I pray for. I do not want any trial to end before it has accomplished what it was sent to do.
God bless,
Jackie G.

Erica said...

We are praying for you to have a full and speedy recovery and for all of the Ascol family. Pastor Bill of Bethel Owasso read your letter Wed. night and the part from Job 37 has been a blessing to us this week. 1 Peter 5:10&11 But may the God of all grace who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ,
Steve and Erica Jones

Elizabeth O. said...

Pastor Ascol,

Though we are quite new to the church, our hearts go out to you and your family. We will be praying for you - I in Omaha, finishing up the move, and Rob in Florida with the body at GBC.

When every I see lightening I think of Psalm 19...I think many of us do:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork"

Although I enjoy different translations, I always think of this verse in KJ....

Strong Tower said...

Let's see, lightning, rain, wet ground, metal car and a pastor looking for what is missing...

policemen and paramedics and a doc get to witness a miracle and we get to glory in the story of the God of Glory...

Wisdom is proven in her children...

Thanks ta for being a good conductor of God's providence...

Be well soon

Tom said...

This is Rebecca Ascol on behalf of my dad. He wanted me to leave a comment up here to express his appreciation to all of you for your prayers and encouragement, and to let you know that he will not be able to respond or update for a while. For news or updates, check out Tim Brister's blog. He has been publishing recent info as he gets it.
Again, on behalf of my dad and my whole family, thank you so much for your prayers in this time. God is showing Himself to be very strong in our human weakness, and we praise Him that He is in sovereign control of our every step.
_Becca Ascol

timmybrister.com said...

I believe the link Becca put in her last comment does not work. I would be happy to keep everyone updated on Tom's health condition, as I will be updating everyone on my blog.

Also, please feel free to comment here on Tom's blog as you are inclined; however, all email and correspondence for the time being has been directed to me until Tom (and the doctors) feel that his condition has improved and feels comfortable.

Thank you for praying for Tom and the Ascol family during this time. May God's wonderful kindness and great compassion be seen in the care of His servant and our pastor.

Grace Baptist Church, Somerset, KY said...

Tom, I have been in Hazard, KY this week on a mission trip and just got home and found out about your shocking experience from one of my church members. I hope you are settling down a bit. I remember when I moved to Orlando in 1991 being told by a church member there that my chances of being struck by lightening had just increased by about 90%. There are prices to pay for living in the "sunshine state."

I am praying for you, my brother, for a full and speedy recovery.

Bill Haynes

Brian said...

They always say that crazy things happen to pastors to give them good sermon illustrations. That "hit by lightning" sort of stuff just follows you your whole life.

I guess it's true!

Jason Robertson said...

Tom, I was in a church not far from you on Sunday and I heard, "Hey did you hear about Tom Ascol! He was running around in the storm and cops were there and bodies were flying. He was seen on the ground with cops over him. He was barefoot and cuss words were being shouted. He was arrested and charged with all kinds of things and probably will only be doing prison ministry for the next 25 years to life!"

Nothing like church gossip!!!

No, seriously, Tom I am glad you are going to be okay. You are in our prayers.

Jason Robertson said...

Or maybe they said you were stealing a car and the cops tasered you.

And can't keep up with all the gossip!

Gordan Runyan said...

I am glad you're okay, and am looking forward to the reports of new-found abilities, like moving things with your mind and being able to turn invisible.

C'mon! Don't hold out on us, Tom! Ya gots to give us the 411 on all your new super-powers.

Johnny said...

Dear Tom,

We heard of your event through Dr. Beeke. We are very grateful that you are recuperating. May the Lord give grace daily and enable you to return to all of your activities in His kingdom. We are very grateful to God for having spard your life!!
Joao and Berry Serafini

Steve said...

Wow! What a bolt out of the blue!
So, was that a warning or an attaboy?
Anyway, I've got some old rechargable batt'ries stuck back, and I s'pose I might have you start carryin' 'em around in yer pocket!!