Kara Tippets went to be with Jesus Christ today; the saints welcoming her to the banqueting table of her Lord. Kara is the lady who has been battling breast cancer so publicly for the last three years. I first became aware of her when she wrote a blog post countering the decision of Brittany Maynard to take her own life utilizing the state of Oregon’s physician suicide law to end her terminal brain cancer prior to enduring too much suffering (which Maynard did on November 1st, 2014). This is how I first learned of Kara Tippets. Kara leaves behind her four children, and her husband, Jason, who is a pastor in Colorado, where they resided together until today.
I don’t really have anything profound to say, other than I am heart-broken. What is there to say in the face of such things? Kara has a personal and intimate relationship with the living Lord of the universe, Jesus Christ. She now resides in his heavenly kingdom where she reposes in anticipation of that great consummate day when Jesus comes again (with all of the saints, including, now, Kara) to make all things right, to straighten the crooked.
I know something though, it probably will sound kind of mystical, but it wasn’t for me; it was the most concrete thing I experienced when I was facing my own mortality with my terminal and incurable cancer diagnosis (of DSRCT : my diagnosis was in November, 2009). The day before I was to begin my radical chemo-treatments (starting early December, 2010) I had a PET scan; just to make sure my cancer was where the CT scan had showed it (and to make sure it hadn’t metastasized anywhere other than the region it was in). We headed home afterwards to prepare for my admittance into the hospital the next day, to begin my in-patient chemo. As we headed home we stopped at Subway to get a sandwich. As I stood in line with my wife I was terrified with the prospect of what faced me (very likely a painful death, and really just the unknown of what was going to happen to me). But as we were standing there an old disheveled guy with white hair came jostling into the restaurant and stood in line behind me. He started talking to me a bit about the weather, and other small talk stuff. We ordered our sandwiches, and as my wife and I turned to leave this guy stopped me, he reached out his hand to mine to shake it; we shook hands, and as we did he said: “it is nice to finally meet you!” Independent of each other, as we got in the car, my wife and I both looked at each other and at about the same time we said to each other: “I think that guy is an angel.” We both sensed that this guy was an emissary from our Lord to assure us that we were not alone, but that the courts of heaven were standing with us; that Jesus Christ was standing with us.
As we got home, we ate our sandwiches, and the night began to get later and later. As it did I was amix with all kinds of emotions (fear mostly). But I could not shake what happened earlier at Subway; the Lord was ministering to me through that. He reminded me of the story of Elisha and his servant, when the king of Syria sent his army to kill Elisha because Elisha was giving the leadership of Israel information about how to defeat Syria and her compatriots. As the story goes, the Syrians did indeed come and surrounded Elisha and his servant; Elisha’s servant panicked, but Elisha said:
“… Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
“Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” II Kings 6:16-17
In that moment I felt like that young man, Elisha’s servant, I came as close as you can to having a vision of the heavens opened around us (and I’m not even a Pentecostal or Charismatic); it was as if the Lord took that earlier experience (with the “angel” at Subway) and put it with the reality of Elisha’s armies, and made it clear to me that we, that I stood in heaven’s court, and that heaven’s court stood with us in Jesus’ name. The overwhelming sense I had was something like Jacob’s ladder (Genesis 28), as if the heavens were opened, and Jesus was standing right there with us among his heavenly host. It gave me such a sense of peace and triumph in that singular moment that I felt at ease; for that moment. It is a moment that as I reflect on it now, I continually draw great hope from it; a sense of God’s presence that was engendered by his great love and care.
It is with this in mind that I reflect upon Kara Tippett’s home going today. It is overwhelmingly sad, but the God of Elisha, Jacob, and all of those in Christ has welcomed her home to be with him in his heavenly Kingdom (the Kingdom that will come). And I take heart, knowing that as she left her dear family behind, that the same Shepherd who ministered to me during my fearful time, with all of those resources, will minister to Kara’s family in unbelievable ways. There is still a terrible sting felt by death, because we still live here, but it has finally been overcome by Jesus’ victory; Kara has just gotten to taste that victory sooner than the rest of us, but we all will soon enough, one way or the other (I pray for the other!).
Requiescat In Pace, Kara.