Now to what happened during Easter of this year (2004). This story is really in three parts. The first part is the physical circumstances leading up to the near death experience.
I have got to let you know that I am in perfect health. I have regular checkups, a good exercise program, and healthy eating habits. So when this took place, it surprised us. Penne and my children were in the car with me. We came back from seeing the dentist (for my daughter) and traveled along the motorway to our exit. Coming up on the exit and approaching the set of lights, I was suddenly hit in the middle of the chest with a massive pain. I was like a lance hitting me. It was 4:00pm and the news had just come on. Because we only had about two kilometers to travel, and many cars all around me, I proceeded toward home and had another two massive hits along the way. Penne and the children were very worried. I parked the car in our drive way and was unable to move. I was only breathing shallow breaths while managing the pain in my chest. After a few minutes, I moved inside the house and straight away had the fourth hit. Penne tried to ring our doctors (we know quite a number connected to our congregation), but they were all out of the office by now. Most were on vocation. I had settled down and convinced Penne that things would get back to normal. All I needed was rest. We had everything prepared for a special service to re-enact the Lord's Supper at the church. It was a big event, but I had everything prepared.
Penne went to this function and upon entering the function room met with one of our doctors. Friends looked after the children from that point on. They came back to see me at home. After an examination, the doctor rang for the ambulance and admitted me to the cardiac ward at a local hospital. The specialist doctors proceeded with every possible test at their disposal and kept me monitored throughout. In the morning, the heart specialist came to see me. His response was, 'well, you're a mystery to us.' They found absolutely nothing wrong with me and were at a loss to explain the pain. There was no heart attack or anything related to it. It was now Good Friday morning.
He proceeded to sign my release papers at the nurses' station, which was only a few feet away from the end of my bed. I had just finished eating my breakfast and watched the number of doctors and nurses increase. It was a shift change. A strange dizzy feeling came over me, but just briefly enough for me to think, 'this is weird.' It was followed by a tingling sensation in my feet moving up along my legs towards my head. And then I flat-lined for two minutes. I was dead and the nursing staff worked for that entire time to get me back. They were right there! I have all this documented, because I asked for a printout after I recovered.
Phase two then started, my actual near death experience. At first, I found myself in absolute darkness, but was totally aware of everything and knew that I was dead. There was no fear or anxiety attached to this awareness. In fact I knew that I was 'in death' (the darkness had a presence to it). I remember turning to my left, right, and thinking, 'now what?' There was no point to moving anywhere. I had no reference point, nothing. Nihilism, the ultimate individualism, just myself in a void of emptiness. God had left me there just long enough to become familiar with this reality. I then found myself being lead along, but I wasn't moving by my own ability. It was more like being carried along. I felt as if there was a hand on my back directing me, or more like being placed in God's hand and transported along without my effort. I had the awareness of movement, but no reference of moving because I was in complete darkness.
Then suddenly the darkness gave way and I found myself standing in front of this huge mansion. Golden, honey colored light was streaming out the windows and surrounded me, pushing back the darkness. I remember looking to my side and seeing the darkness fade like a fog, but trying to still hold on to me in a vain attempt to keep me. The golden light saturated my every cell, my very being. It also had a presence to it, but different from the darkness. It was filled with so much joy that the feeling was more real and intense than any emotion I have ever had in my best moments on earth.
In the front part of the mansion, the exterior of which extended further than my peripheral vision allowed, I saw a massive oak door and it swung open. At first, my eyes were overpowered by the brilliance inside, but after a brief moment I was able to see this large hall filled with people, all dressed in white. The place sparkled. There was a golden staircase at the rear of this hall leading to other sections. It had a very festive mood.
Everything had an extra dimension to things. Everything looked more real. I remember taking note of how people looked. The only explanation that I have is that I was able to see roundly. When we see people normally, we only get to see what they want to reveal. This was like seeing people for who they are, as God sees them: all at once. Also, the white gowns were part of people; it wasn't like they had put clothing on as a separate fabric, but that it was an extension of who they were, like the robe of salvation, or the gown of righteousness, from scripture. They all looked young, but were not young in age. They were just freed from the decay and curse of death. They were fully alive.
After looking around and seeing all this, I then noticed the man at the door. He welcomed me with such enthusiasm and delight. He had a crystal goblet in his hand, with a golden ring around it, filled with red wine to overflowing. He offered it to me and said that it was my cup. Before I reached out to take hold of it, just at that moment, another man approached him and whispered into his ear as he passed by. The man with the goblet then turned back to me and said, 'Oh, it looks like you'll just be a moment, so I'll put this cup of wine to the side here, and it will be waiting for you when you return.'
I then started to come back. But even coming back was an interesting experience. It was like being at the bottom of a swimming pool and looking up. If you blow bubbles, you can then see everything in a 360 degree view. I could hear them say, 'come back now, open your eyes, stay with us!' I then regained full consciousness.
A dialogue between Pastor Dirk and Rev. John Price
I found your link on the Near Death Experience Research Foundation site and thought I'd get in touch with you directly and personally. I am a Pastor in the Lutheran Church of Australia (by the way, in the next few weeks we should have our own web page up and running, it will be: www.nearheaven.org). I was dead for two minutes. (I was in hospital at the time and linked up to the monitors, so the whole thing is actually recorded). It took place on Good Friday morning at 7:35am of this year, 2004. It happened very suddenly and I was in very good health (just turned 40!). I am still very fit and in good health after my near death experience. I have been subsequently diagnosed with sick-sinus-syndrome This syndrome causes the electrical system controlling the heart to instantly shut down causing an immediate and total bodily death. I just happened to be in the hospital at the time! Shortly after that experience, I received a pace-maker. To quote the doctors, 'This might never happen again, but we cannot be sure.' I had a fantastic experience of being brought before a heavenly mansion (John 14:1) and an experience of meeting with a group of angels on two successive days upon my return home, seven days after the near death experience. I have shared this experience with my fellow Pastors and our District President who all got to hear about the event due to the timing of this near death experience. It happened during the Easter services period, and our District President, Rev. Tim J., just happened to be on holiday and attending our congregation. However much they marvel at my story of what I saw and encountered, no one can give me any further clarification as to 'why God might have given me this experience, and what for?' The purpose of these experiences, other than a really good and unusual story, tends to escape me. I thought that if I entered into a dialogue with you, because of your Christian and near death experience connections, that some clarity and understanding will eventuate. What do you think?
With Greetings from our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, and in his service,
Dirk W., Pastor
I've been thinking about your fascinating account and subsequent experiences.
You've been singled out for an extraordinary experience, and I don't think it is over yet.
Let me share with you something from my website on journaling:
'In his presentation on Journaling, Fr. Price includes several different methods and recommends in a spiritual context a version which approaches the journal entry as a prayer to the Lord. Different techniques involve dialogue journaling, writing with the non-dominant hand, and writing letters to person or persons who have died and with whom you have unresolved issues.'
Dirk, have you ever heard of dialogue journaling? I was taught this in 1984 by two Jesuit priests, Matthew and Dennis Linn, siblings, and excellent presenters. They point out that a lot of people have tried keeping a journal but gave up on it after a while. They suggested doing it in the form of a letter to the Lord, in which you spill out the issues you are struggling with. But first, you do a centering prayer for about five minutes to center yourself down to the presence of the one you are addressing.
For centering prayer: get your breathing going slow and deep. I get mine down to about six to eight breaths per minute, as opposed to the eighteen we normally breathe. As you breathe in, you think the Name, 'Jesus.' As you breathe out, you think his title, 'Lord.' You clear your mind of other thoughts. If another thought comes in, you let it go on out. You don't pursue it. Keep on doing centering prayer.
After about five to ten minutes of this, you pick up a pen and a notebook and write your letter to the Lord. There are several advantages to this, chief of which is that writing, thinking, and seeing your letter so involves your body, mind, and spirit, that it shuts out the distractions to mental prayer.
Then when you have finished your letter, you sign off, 'Love, Dirk.'
Then - while you are still in this meditative mode, you write 'Dear Dirk' and you write the answer God wants you to see.
To be honest, when that was suggested to me for the first time, I rolled my eyes and thought, 'I'll just write what I want to see? Isn't this called 'automatic writing?' This will go over like a lead balloon in my conservative parish.' I went back to my room and thought, everything else these guys have taught me is good. I'll try it. I did, and was blown away by the experience. Everything I get is full of fresh new insights I've not had before. It is loving. If it's not loving, it's not of the Lord. Very often what I get is something I do not want to see, like, 'John, go see this person you're avoiding.' And when I read it over months or years later, I can remember the first part, but the second part is fresh and new.
Where's it coming from? If it's only from our unconscious mind, that's worthwhile. Our unconscious minds are always working on things we are concerned about. But Jesus said (in the Gospel reading from last Sunday here in the USA) he will give us the words we need when we need them.
I would urge you to ask that question you posed of the Lord: 'The purpose of these experiences, other than a really good and unusual story, tends to escape me.' I don't think something like that is just for a good story. I think something is going on and it's for a profound purpose. I've been through several like this where the account had a profound impact on many, many people.
For one thing, I've used various accounts very effectively in counseling couples who've just lost a child, someone who is about to die, a family which has just lost a loved one, and one had a profound impact on my parish.
You will lead many people to a deeper faith with this account. You will lift people up out of depression with your account and others you will hear because in telling it, you will free up near death experiencers who've been afraid to talk about their experience or process it. Be faithful to this enormous gift you have been given. Do a dialogue journaling on it to see what more you might learn from it or what more the Lord wants you to know about it. It might not work for you, it doesn't for all people, but I bet it will with you. I'd be fascinated to know how it turns out for you.
Your thoughts? Reactions?
God is blessing you in this and through you, will bless many more.
Thank you so much for your thoughts. I feel very encouraged by them and will try working on journaling as you have outlined it for me. I remember that during my last months at Seminary one of our lecturers introduced meditative approaches, however I was on the way out and missed out on such an influence in my life. I am also thrilled with your response and willingness to correspond with me as I explore this experience further.
I don't mind you sharing anything that we might be discussing or any part of my story. I am on the executive of our local minister's network and they were fascinated by the account of this experience which has led to a number of guest speaking occasions, including one that was videotaped at the Baptist church. Since then, it has helped countless people who have been very encouraged by it. It has a life of its own by now. I understand that over two hundred fifty copies of this video have already been sent around (even to different parts of the world) and more copies seem to be requested all the time. When the Baptist pastor announced the topic and that it was experienced by a Lutheran Pastor, the church was packed, and that was during holiday season. That was the only time that I was able to be freed up from my own congregational commitments.
When I first experienced this, I was very reluctant to share it with anyone. But I now believe that this is God's story and if it helps someone then all glory be to Him. Let me set the scene for you.
I have just turned forty, and have been in ministry due to a number of direct calls in my life. The first took place when I was ten years of age and walking back from Sunday school, having a chat with God about how impressed I was with the prophets. I then heard his voice talk to me directly. 'Well, if you would like to be part of them, then that is something I can do for you.' I remember freaking out and dismissing that encounter. The next occasion took place when I was twenty years of age. I was working on my parent's farm (I took two years off before entering University). During a break from work (and I was alone on the farm that day), I sat inside our home and looked outside and watched the horses on the other paddock. During that time, I was fascinated by extra sensory perception and tried mind-melding with one of the horses. I told it what to do and it did it. At first, I thought it might have been a chance event, but I tried it two further times and the horse did exactly what I commanded it to do. Then I felt a 'presence' behind me. I became very cold and knew instinctively that it was incredibly evil. I heard the voice say to me, 'Did you like that? I can give you even more than that, if you worship me.' I can tell you that that experience spun me out and I immediately repented of it.
Shortly after that, the Uniting Church held a mission festival and the neighboring dairy farmer that I used to help out on was an elder there and invited me to give them a hand. An American Pastor came and preached every night during that week. His name was Julius Jefferson. The event that occurred on the Friday of that week has burned this experience into my memory. I was sitting in the pews (and I can still remember his sermon as well), when suddenly the entire congregation disappeared. My thoughts were 'where did everyone go to?' But before that thought was finished, everything else around me disappeared and I was in this extreme bright light. A human-looking figure in a white robe, even brighter than the bright light around him, came towards me and I immediately had a kind of knowing exactly what he wanted me to know. I was called into ministry.
Now get this. I had already re-applied to the University. I had undergone application proceedings to join the Air force. And now I had sent away to come on board our Seminary in Adelaide, South Australia. The acceptance of all three came in the mail on the same day! It was if God was saying, 'well I'm not making you do anything outside of your choices.' I was ordained in 1990 after seven years of training and entered active ministry.
I am now on the Sunshine Coast, an hour drive north of Brisbane, Queensland. I am the chair of the District Council for Mission & Ministry. I'm a board member of two Lutheran Colleges, and pastoring a growing mid-size congregation. I have a wonderful family and life continues to be very interesting in ministry because I so often feel like a fish out of water I don't fit the conventional personality type of pastors.
The pattern that I have just outlined continued with another 'vision' event when I was thirty years of age. And now, when I was forty, God turned me off for a short time, and I had a near death experience that I will write up for you shortly, and had a very interesting encounter with angels (all without the influence of medication).
What a fascinating story! And it goes on, and hasn't stopped. I look forward to reading what more you have to send me. I am copying this to Jody Long at NDERF.org, as per your permission.
It also appears that you are doing with the experiences at least some of what the Lord wants you to do with them. I know as a pastor I find these stories clear up doubts and restore faith, particularly at times of the death of a loved one, whether child, sibling, spouse, or parent. I used it recently with my whole family gathered for my beloved first cousin's death, and it was very moving for everyone there.
The experience with the evil one was fascinating, and your faith response was right on. That is not to say that all psychic events are from the evil one, but I would say it means that he was more than willing to step in and take credit for something God the Creator/Father gave you. The devil is the ultimate liar and never created anything. So don't walk away from that just because the devil tried to usurp you and your use of it. Use it for the Lord. Use it on the terrorists holding hostages, for example, or on those about to set of roadside bombs. That's what I'd do. Maybe that's why the Lord didn't give it to me, who knows.
But you have an astounding gift, and the devil got you to stop using it. Take it up again, but for the Lord.
You had a vision while you were in that mission festival service. Don't put quotations marks around it like you are embarrassed by it. It was a vision. Claim it. You did claim it, after all, in discerning correctly that you were called to the pastorate.
The experience in discussing prophets with the Lord was interesting, because in a profound way, you are now doing prophecy for the Lord. Our age is too influenced by Aristotelian philosophy. Our educational system is completely given over to it, to the exclusion of Platonic and Socratic logic, which allowed the exploration of emotions and the spirit world. Aristotle said the only thing worth studying is that which you can see, taste, touch, smell, and hear, things, in short, that are material. Hence 'immaterial' becomes a dismissive word; and what is 'immaterial' but God, spirits, angels, the devil, prophecy, dreams, visions, on and on. It's what Eastern philosophers mean when they say the west is too 'materialistic.' They are not talking about Lexus cars and television; they are talking about abandoning Socratic and Platonic logic and the whole spirit world in the process.
I certainly want to hear more. Thank you so much for sharing this. Your statement that you didn't want to talk about it earlier was quite understandable. In a world dominated by Aristotelian philosophy, you would be a kook, and dismissed out of hand. Your prophetic role is to bring people back to understanding there is life after death, a spirit world, that God does greet us, does love us, and does forgive us. He is not wrathful and vengeful towards his people, as some guilt-wielding pastors would have us believe.
You are inspiring many, including me, who has never had any of these experiences directly, only through people who have shared this with me. But I'll tell your story from now on.