Words really escape me as to what to write, and words can’t really capture it anyway. Further, I am still deep in grief and sorrow, which clouds everything to an extent. But, I needed to and wanted to post something here in case some people haven’t heard, and I also wanted to make an initial attempt at saying thank you to all of those who have loved, helped, supported, and prayed for us.
On June 4, 2018, my beloved and dear wife Heather went to be with the Lord. She had been ill for some time, but it was still very much a shock as we did not expect it to end in death. It is a long, detailed story, but I will provide enough of a summary to make a sufficient explanation I hope.
Back toward the end of last year, Heather did not have the energy that she normally has. At that time, we did not think anything of it, and only after her passing did we really begin to piece some of it together. She thought the lack of energy was just a season and would pass. That persisted until early February, when she suddenly developed a number of alarming symptoms including a racing heart (sometimes up to 150-160 beats per minute); muscle spasms, jerks, and tremors; feeling like she was having difficulty breathing; feeling like she was having or going to have a seizure; and the inability to sleep due to these symptoms. We made several trips to the emergency room, and she was even admitted to the hospital overnight at one point. We also had many, many doctor appointments and more tests, etc. than I can remember. We also tried many different medicines and treatments, but nothing was really helping. She would have good days and bad days, but the general direction seemed to be worse.
Finally, around the middle of April, she was diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). The doctors had not ordered a round of tick disease tests until then due to the fact that Heather did not have a fever or flu-like symptoms, no spots or rashes, etc., which are the usual signs. Further, she did not specifically remember a tick bite. However, we do remember, back in the fall of last year, a time when we, as a family, went walking in the woods. Heather, and a few of the children, were covered in little tiny ticks. That is the last time we remember a tick on Heather. If that is when she contracted RMSF, then she went approximately six months with her body fighting it but it being undiagnosed and untreated.
Upon the diagnosis, she was immediately started on antibiotics. They brought some small improvement initially, but, unfortunately, by that point it had damaged her nervous system, which appears to be what was causing her symptoms. Without giving too much unnecessary details, I discovered her not breathing and without a pulse on Monday morning, June 4, 2018. I attempted CPR until the paramedics arrived, but she could not be revived. We are not sure what the exact cause of death is (heart failure, stroke, something else?), and the autopsy may not reveal any more than we know right now. However, that said, it is certainly accurate enough to say that it was related to/complications from RMSF.
Heather was an amazing woman and the love of my life. (Honestly, I hardly know how to think about myself apart from her.) Words fail me as I try to describe her. She was my best friend, my partner, my wife, the mother of my children—my other half. I can’t give her the tribute she deserves. Proverbs 31:10-31 and 1 Peter 3:1-6. But, the Lord knows and can and has and will. She loved her Lord dearly and above all else, and her ultimate desire was to please and obey Him and point others to Him in all things. As she suffered in her illness, she still held fast to Him. She would lay for hours on end, feeling miserable and unable to sleep, listening to sermons and praying. She truly was a faithful, covenant-keeping, child of the King, and I am sure His welcoming of her home was incredible.
Prior to the illness, she was healthy and full of joy, energy, and life. Heather used to, only partly jokingly, say that we were going to live to be 120 together! So, as you can imagine, this is a tremendous shock and sorrow to me and the children. In case you want to read a bit more about Heather, you can see the obituary (http://tharpfuneralhome.com/funeralpress/heather-l-chrisman/2596/), or you can see the eulogy Alexis, our second oldest, did at her mother’s funeral (http://www.rodneychrisman.com/2018/06/13/lexies-eulogy-for-her-mother/). Lexie did a fantastic job—much better than I am able to do.
Even during this time of great grief and sorrow, we have strongly felt the presence of the Lord and the comfort of His Holy Spirit. Even in the midst of this, we know and trust that the Lord is good, that He loves us, and that He does all things well. Job 1:21 and 2:10, Isaiah 53, and John 3:13-17 and 11:1-44. We do not understand, and likely will never in this life completely understand, why this tragedy. Deuteronomy 29:29 and Isaiah 55:8-9. But, we trust the goodness, grace, mercy, and wisdom of our sovereign Heavenly Father. Romans 8 and Psalm 23. We cling to Him, knowing that it is really He Who is holding us. Isaiah 41:13 and Psalm 37:23-24 and 73:23-28. We trust His good promises that Heather is now with Him in His presence with every tear and sorrow wiped away. John 14:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. She is no longer suffering, and she is awaiting, with anxious anticipation, as we are, the resurrection of the dead, the consummation of the age, and the ultimate triumph of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Psalm 116:15, 2 Samuel 12:23b, Revelation 7:15-17 and 21:1-5. Praise God in whom we live, move, have our being, and hope! Acts 17:28, Psalm 33:20-22 and 62:5. (So many other Scriptures could be cited and have been such a comfort to us.)
The Lord has also ministered to us and continues to minister to us mightily through His people. The kindness, love, sympathies, and support that have been and continues to be poured out on us by the body of Christ is truly amazing, and we can hardly express how thankful we are. Friends, family, our current and former churches, Liberty University, former and current students, and so many others have provided prayers, texts and emails, cards, meals, help for me at work, help around the farm and house, financial support (the GoFundMe page that our pastor, Virgil Hurt, set up ( has raised over $20,000 alone — https://www.gofundme.com/heather-chrisman-family), and much other love, support, and assistance. I could never hope to list it all. For all of this, again, we are so thankful and grateful beyond our ability to express. So, for all of you who have prayed for us and supported us in any way during this time, we say a deep and heartfelt thank you. May the Lord God repay you for your work, and may you receive a rich reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, for I know that I cannot repay you these kindnesses. (Paraphrase of Ruth 2:12).
For My Mother, Heather Lanea Chrisman
By: Alexis Chrisman
June 9, 2018
I’m here today with an impossible task; summarizing my mother and her life in a few short minutes. Anyone who knew her can understand how truly impossible this is. There is simply too much of her to put into words.
But if I could choose a few words to describe her, the first that comes to mind is passionate. She never did anything half-way. She and my father used to joke that she only had two settings, 10 and off. She was either on her feet, running full-speed, or she was asleep.
The second word would have to be tenacious. She knew what she wanted, and she would not be denied in getting it. She would hold on. Even when she was a young girl, this was evident. She wanted to live in a beautiful place, and she loved making things beautiful. Throughout her childhood, she was constantly redecorating and rearranging her bedroom. This continued throughout her life. She wanted to be a cheerleader, so she got a trampoline and taught herself and practiced constantly. She cheered all though middle school and high school.
But above all, even from a very young age, she wanted God. She always had, as she described it “a tender heart toward God”. She would often ask, of her own initiative, to be taken to Sunday school. She maintained her faith all through her school years and into college.
It was during this time that she was hired as an assistant manager in a Cinemark Movie Theater in Kentucky. It was there that she met my father, who at the time was working as a projectionist. He always said that there was only one woman in the world who he remembered seeing for the first time, and that was my mother. He thought she was beautiful from the first moment he saw her. But he used to tease her, saying she was wearing red pants at the time. She always responded that he was wearing pink plastic suspenders and a bow tie.
At the theater, late at night, usually only one manager and one projectionist were left working. My parents usually tried to manage it so they were there together. During those times, they had many discussions about faith. My father had been raised in a Christian home, but had left the faith and was at the time a strong atheist. He had many good arguments against Christianity, arguments that had made other Christians feel angry and threatened. But my mother was neither. She would always respond with “That’s a good argument. I don’t have an answer to that, but I still believe.” Even in the face of doubts that she couldn’t answer, she clung tenaciously to her faith.
Eventually, she brought him back to God and they married. After my sister and I were born, they moved to Virginia, where they had their other seven children. Altogether, my mother and father moved together fourteen times. One of the things about her that always amazed me was her ability to turn any house into a home in a very short amount of time. It would seem like no time at all before the house was painted and decorated and she was fixing eggs in the kitchen.
Houses all over Kentucky and Virginia still bear her mark, because she once lived in them. Her motto was “Leave everything a little better than when you found it”. And she did. Every place she went, everything she touched, she left a little better. But what I think she never realized was that this applied to people too. Every person she met, she left a little better, because she once knew them.
My mother’s degree focused on Special Education. She always had a heart for those with disabilities, and they were naturally drawn to her. She had a special way with all of them, neither pushing them away, nor talking down to them, but treating them like what they were, fellow children of God. I remember many of her stories about the children she taught and loved when she worked as a teacher. She always said her favorite part was the children. But eventually, she left working to raise and school my sister and me, and eventually all her children.
But her influence was never limited in that way because she had a kind of way with all people. She made everyone feel valued and important in a special way. I was often amazed when she returned from talking to a stranger for a few minutes, only for her to proceed to tell us their life story. People talked to her, because she listened and she cared. Cashiers and servers came to know her by name, and miss her when she wasn’t with us. She used to speak fondly about all her friends spread out in the stores and restaurants of Bedford County. She loved them all dearly and knew them by name.
When she was a little girl, one of her dreams was to someday live in a big white house. That dream finally came true only last December, when we finally purchased Wolf Hill, our family farm where she will be buried. She loved it deeply, and it was the place she picked for our final home. We can think of no better place to plant her seed. We will bury her today int the traditional Christian way, facing the east, ready to be resurrected to meet her Lord at His triumphant return, when death is finally fully defeated.
Toward the end of her life, she was very sick, and often in great pain. I believe her suffering was more than any of us knew, because she never complained. Instead, she focused on us, asking if we were happy and comfortable, if we were having fun. She once sent us a note when she was unable to come see us. We’ve lost it, but in it, she told us that she loved us. She told us to run, laugh, dance, read, sing and play. She herself throughout her sickness spent her time praying and listening to sermons
In Malachi 4:2, it says, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” One of my mother’s favorite things to do on the farm was raise up motherless calves, feeding and brushing them. We often saw them come leaping out of the stall and her energy and spirit was like theirs. And we know that one day, like them, she will come leaping out of the grave, finally healed of all pain and sickness.
Near the end of her life, she often said to my father, “You saved me”. He gave the life she wanted for herself and her children. But what I think she never realized was that she saved him, and saved all of us, because she was the one who led him back to God.
My father has influenced many people through his life, as a pastor, a short-term missionary, and now as a law professor here at Liberty University. But my mother was always a quiet, private person, the force unseen. She gave up everything to stay at home, serving her husband and children, pouring her over-flowing life into each of us. She never liked to be in the spotlight, never liked attention. But in a way, everything my father has done, his ministry, it all comes back to her.
I don’t think she ever really realized how many people she touched. On last Thursday morning, I dreamed that she was alive again. And the first thing I told her was, “You should have seen how many people loved you and honored you, how many people cared and reached out to us”. And I know that one day, when we are both alive again, that will be the first thing I tell her. But I’m sure she will already know.
To us, she was much more than our mother. She was our teacher, our guide, and our friend. To my father, she was much more than his wife. She was his greatest advisor, his business partner, and his best friend. Through this hard time, my father has often said that he doesn’t even know how to think of himself apart from her. I believe that goes for all of us. We simply aren’t able to conceive of ourselves without her. She was the center of our family, the heart and soul of our home and our very lives. Without her, we will break, we are breaking, and we are broken.
The night before she died, we were all in the family room watching the old Ben-Hur movie. My mother was too sick to join us. But the next day, as we were grieving, one of us remembered about Jesus being in the movie. She wasn’t able to come watch it with us on Sunday night, but Monday morning, she saw Jesus for real. And we know that there are many things that we see only a pale imitation of, that she is finally seeing for real.
My mother once said that she didn’t want us to be sad when she died. She said she would rather have us have a party with chips and salsa. She would want us to continue living, traveling ever closer to Jesus. So I would like to finish by reading a poem that I think captures that sentiment. It is an old Irish funeral poem. My mother was always proud of her Irish roots. I found this poem when I was thirteen years old, and I showed it to my mother at the time. She liked it, and now I feel it truly captures how she wanted us all to feel when she died. It’s called “Remembered Joy”.
Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free!
I follow the plan God laid for me.
I saw His face, I heard His call,
I took His hand and left it all…
I could not stay another day,
To love, to laugh, to work or play;
Tasks left undone must stay that way.
And if my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joy.
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss…
Ah yes, these things I, too, shall miss.
My life’s been full, I’ve savoured much:
Good times, good friends, a loved-one’s touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief –
Don’t shorten yours with undue grief.
Be not burdened with tears of sorrow,
Enjoy the sunshine of the morrow.
Heather L Chrisman Eulogy by Alexis D Chrisman (Link to Word Document of Text)
Here is a video of me discussing just war theory with Rick Davis. Rick goes to church with us, and he also teaches for Veritas, the publisher of Omnibus. We use Omnibus as a part of our homeschool curriculum, so doing this interview with him was a real treat!
I recently had the privilege of speaking at Providence Church on the topic of a Christian approach to law, or the law and the Bible. I tried to condense my understanding of a biblical approach to law into about 45 minutes to an hour. If interested, you can find the audio here (along with other resources including a few other sermons I have preached there.)
Here is another great quote from Little Britches:
“Any man who says the world owes him a living is dishonest. The same God that made you and me made this earth. And He planned it so that it would yield every single thing that the people on it need. But He was careful to plan it so that it would only yield up its wealth in exchange for the labor of man. Any man who tries to share in that wealth without contributing the work of his brain or his hands is dishonest.”
Ralph Moody, Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers 177 (1950). In this passage, Father is responding to what a little girl told Ralph regarding her father not having to work hard because he knew the world owed him a living. Her father had said that “only dolts and darn fools” worked hard for a living. Father becomes angry and tells Ralph (Little Britches) that there are really only two types of men in the world–honest and dishonest. Honest men work hard and don’t expect that the world owes them a living. Dishonest men don’t want to work hard and expect that the world owes them a living.
There is a lot to unpack in this little passage. First, we can see that dishonest men are also lazy men. They don’t [click to continue…]
“Always remember, Son, the best boss is the one who bosses the least. Whether it’s cattle, or horses, or men; the least government is the best government.” Ralph Moody, Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers 80 (1950).
Little Britches’s Father is exactly right. The least government is the best government. Too bad more Americans don’t feel that way these days.
Obviously, it is impossible to know exactly what the Founders might think on a given subject, but there are often some pretty good clues. For example, we can make a pretty good guess as to what Thomas Jefferson would think about gun control.
In a letter giving advice to his nephew Peter Carr dated August 19, 1785 (which is well worth the read in its entirety,) Jefferson writes this about exercise:
Give about two of them [Jefferson is writing of his free hours] every day to exercise; for health must not be sacrificed to learning. A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprize, and independance to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks.
(Yes, that is how Jefferson spelled enterprise and independence. You can read it for yourself here.) If Jefferson thought that the best form of exercise is the gun, then it is highly unlikely that he would be a gun control advocate! (For how I recently followed Jefferson’s advice, click here.)
I am one of those crazy people who actually believe that the Second Amendment is about resisting tyranny, not just hunting and sport shooting and self defense. Accordingly, I am an opponent of all forms of gun control. Obviously, I don’t know for sure how far Jefferson would go, but, given his experience with tyranny and the methods for throwing it off, I expect he would be close enough to my position on it to make a lot of the Jefferson-loving-but-real-liberty-hating liberals of our time a bit uncomfortable.
The Supreme Court refused to hear the case of Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock. In legal parlance, they denied cert. This means that the New Mexico Supreme Court opinion stands, which makes this a very sad day for the cause of religious liberty.
Elane Photography, LLC refused to photograph a homosexual commitment ceremony on the grounds that it violated their religious liberty and free speech rights. Their argument had nothing to do with whether someone could legally practice homosexuality or celebrate it in some type of marriage-like ceremony. Rather, they simply argued that they had the right to refuse to photograph such a ceremony due to the fact that it would violate their sincerely-held religious beliefs to do so. It is a liberty-based argument, i.e., I shouldn’t be forced by the government to do things that violate my conscience.
The New Mexico Supreme Court, based upon the state’s anti-discrimination laws, disagreed. The concurring opinion is sympathetic to Huguenins (the owners of Elane Photogrpahy, LLC), and therefore all the more chilling in its conclusions. Basically, the court says that sincerely-held religious beliefs must be checked at the door when one enters the realm of commerce, and this Kantian separation of religious beliefs from the rest of life, particularly the public square, is a price of citizenship. Here are the justice’s actual words: [click to continue…]
In preparing for homeschool this semester, Heather and I are reading through R. J. Rushdoony‘s excellent book The Philosophy of Christian Curriculum. In the following quote, he makes a great point about the purpose of Christian education, tying it in with the rejection of the secular-sacred distinction, the state of the modern church, and the ultimate goal of dominion over the earth. Well worth the read.
[A] Christian liberal arts curriculum should enable the student to exercise dominion over the world. The purpose of the Christian school should be to prepare generation after generation to dominate every area of life and thought. A monastic education is not Christian. It is not the legitimate purpose of the Christian school to prepare the child or student for a retreat from the world. [click to continue…]