Struck By Lightning, by Dr. Gloria Polo, the incredible account of a dentist from Colombia who went to hell after being struck by lightning in 1995 -- and came back with astounding insights into sin, Confession, Mass, the afterlife, the power of intercessory prayer, parenthood, immorality, and what we need to do to make sure that our eternity is a pleasant one.  click here 



The other day I set out to kayak and view wildlife. It's my hobby. I love to get out there in nature, which is "God's first temple" (said Aquinas).

The place I was heading for: Haw Creek in Flagler County, Florida, because it's a mirror-like river with birds and alligators and jumping fish.

It's like there's quicksilver in the muck: just resplendent.

As I approached the vicinity, however, I saw that a road detour was still in place. They're replacing a bridge. Had to divert.

The detour went to a rutted dirt road, and though I dearly wanted to get to Haw, where I heard about an especially large gator, once I got to the road it was too bumpy: I drive a 1993 Honda Accord and I didn't want to strain that old car more than necessary.

I also thought to myself that, often, when there are bumps in the road, God is tapping us on the shoulders. He has something better.

So instead of pressing on -- according to my plan, according to what I had firmly in my mind to do, instead of what I had designed -- I turned around and decided to head elsewhere: any place with water, and quickly, so I could at least get a bit of exercise, even if there wasn't going to be much wildlife. I didn't have a lot of time because thunderstorms were expected within two or three hours, big ones.

You don't want to get caught in the water -- which makes you the highest available lightning rod -- during a Florida thunderstorm.

I settled on Shell Bluff, a place nearby I had tried a few years before; I had seen no appreciable wildlife and never thought to return.

I went there anyhow, unloaded the kayak, put in the seat, and took out the paddles. And right off, when I got to a small dock at Shell Bluff, before I even launched the kayak, I spotted an alligator.

I was surprised. Good sign, I thought -- even if it probably would be the last I saw that day. As I paddled along an undeveloped shore -- swamps -- the beauty of cypresses and coves and the birds grew increasingly inspiring.

This place, to my surprise, was better than Haw Creek. I'd never given it enough of a chance.

I saw a baby alligator, and then a second little gator, and a third, and thought it would be all I would see: little guys (I like viewing the big ones).

Then the adult alligators showed up.

And suddenly the waterway opened up like a new dimension. It was one of the best days in nature I've ever had.

I counted a total of thirty-six gators on the way out and forty-one coming back -- one of the best viewing days I have had in the ten years I've been kayaking. You have to be careful, but gators tend to be over-rated, when it comes to danger. There isn't a documented fatality of someone aboard a kayak or canoe (though it may have happened once on a lake called Jessup), and the state even rents out canoes on most waterways. I saw wood storks. I saw many hawks, anhingas, and herons. The wildlife was all over the place. I'd never seen this number of reptiles in all my trips combined to Haw -- where I so intently had wanted to go. In fact, there were times I saw nothing there.

Now, here at Shell Bluff, a number of gators were not only present in the water (as browridges just above the surface) but on land or posing on logs, letting me study them, a rarity (usually they disappear into the tea-colored water before you get near them). An eruption of wildlife.

God had a different plan for me.

On the return came a bit of trouble:

So caught up in the trip was I that I'd paddled much farther than I planned, and now -- as I headed back -- dark clouds were gathering; quickly.

Glancing east, I decided to cut straight across a curve in the lake, instead of edging along the shore, which is how I had gone out there.

As a result, as the thunder clouds gathered, on that return, I missed the dock. Haste made waste. I didn't see it from so far from shore. It started to rain. Curtains of precipitation were headed toward me. I listened.

Rain was one thing. Thunder -- meaning lightning (with me out there in a boat) -- was another.

I started to pray (invoking Divine Mercy in a special way, since it was Divine Mercy Sunday) and went to Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Raphael the Archangel, Saint Gabriel the Archangel, Saint George, Saint Benedict, Saint John Paul II, Saint John XXIII, Saint Padre Pio, Saint Joseph, and the Blessed Mother of Lourdes and Fatima, to get me back before the storm hit. I did have faith that they'd come through, though I also contemplated waiting out the storm in the forest -- and hoping to find my way back before dark.

Very shortly I located the tiny dock (after a period of some rather intense concern).

And as soon as I set foot on the shore -- that very moment I stepped out of the water --  I heard the first thunder.

It had waited until I was safely onshore, near my old car.

That instant.

You know the feeling: you had to be there.

There was a wave of gratitude.


None worth mentioning. Jesus, take over. Divine Mercy.

There is often a little "test" with grace.

There was jubilation.

I'll never forget the entire atmosphere: cypress, palm trees, clouds rolling in, huge birds winging. No other boats.

It was an "epic" day out there in His Temple, when I let Him guide my day.

--By Michael H. Brown

[resources: From Darkness to Light, Why Is God Punishing Me? and New: What You Take To Heaven]

[See also: Michael Brown retreat, Boston area, April 25 ]

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