1 It Is Written Script: 1215 From Grief to Grace Page 1 From Grief to Grace Program No SPEAKER: JOHN BRADSHAW JOHN: You ve heard the Bible stories of people like Job who had everything a man could want, who then lost it all suddenly and tragically. What happens, though, when those Bible stories jump out of the pages of the Bible and find their way into the lives of everyday people? I m here in Anywhere USA it could be where you live. Just regular people, living regular lives. It s here that I m going to speak with Karen Johnson, whose life was struck by a terrible, random tragedy, but then God turned that tragedy into triumph through the power of His grace. JOHN: Karen, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today. KAREN: You re welcome. JOHN: It had been a perfect day. You and your husband Jon had had a great day, and then in the evening KAREN: In the evening we decided that we were going to go out on our date night. We hadn t had a date night in quite some time and I was very excited. I had just gotten my hair done the day before, and we decided that we were going to do three things. First, we were going to go out to a restaurant to eat, because I told him I was hungry. Then we were going to go to a friend s house, and then we were going to cap it off by going to my mother s house. She had just had her birthday four days prior, and we hadn t seen her. So that was the plan. JOHN: So things were going great, but what happened later on that evening? KAREN: As we drove out of our particular development, we got onto the main street, which is called Bruceville. We headed on down Bruceville, and he told me to pick the restaurant. Elk Grove at that time was a much smaller city than it is now, but we had a few restaurants. We had Friday s, we had Chili s, we had Red Robin.
2 It Is Written Script: 1215 From Grief to Grace Page 2 As we turned the corner, my husband kind of sat back in his seat and he said, Honey, this is going to be a great year. And I said, Really? He said, Yes. And that was like music to my ears because we re a blended family, and we had our struggles. So for him to say, Honey this is going to be a great year was one of the best things that a wife could hear from a husband. As we continued down the road, I saw another restaurant but decided, No, not that one. I m a vegetarian and they probably don t have a very big selection of vegetarian food. So we kept going. And then I turned to my right and I noticed a new restaurant, a sports grill. And I said, Honey how about Mandango s? He asked, What is Mandango s? I said, It s a new sports restaurant. Then he said, Really? Have you ever been there? And I said, No. To which he said, Let s go! So I pulled into the parking lot. It was pretty crowded, and it was dark, so I parked on the opposite side in front of the Asian Market, and we hopped out of the car and walked into the restaurant. JOHN: A great evening. Things are looking good. It s going to be a great year. You ended up at that restaurant sort of randomly, you could have been at any number of other places KAREN: That s true. JOHN: So you went in there and the future is looking bright. And then a random event took place... KAREN: When I got inside the restaurant, immediately my spirit didn t feel right. We d had a wonderful day, full of spiritual things, and I walked into the restaurant and all I could hear was loud music, and I could see the TV screens all around the restaurant. It wasn t really what I expected for a date night. People laughing and drinking I wanted to leave. But as I turned and looked at him, I noticed him looking at the TV screens. And when I saw that I thought, You know, I don t want to mess it up for him, I don t
3 It Is Written Script: 1215 From Grief to Grace Page 3 want to be selfish. So I didn t say anything and he said, Honey, there s a table right over there. So we sat down. We ordered. He was really into the game more into the game than I was, and I was feeling a little jealous. But I knew that we were going to spend time at his friend s house and we were going to see my mother, so I figured I would have enough quality time with him by the time the date was over. JOHN: It started out like a great night full of promise. Not just the night, but the year, was going to be great. But how quickly life can take a dramatic turn! And when life takes a dramatic turn, what do you do? How do you respond? How do you pick yourself up and go again? You d mentioned how you d started to feel in the restaurant that not everything was perfect, and I don t know if that was a portend of things to come, but when it was time to leave...walk us through what happened next. KAREN: That s a very good point. Well, halfway through the meal, my husband says, Uh, honey, we re not going to be able to see Mom. I thought, Excuse me? He said, We re not going to be able to go over to Mom s house. I asked him, Why? He said, Because we don t have enough time. So I immediately asked the waitress to come over and give us our bill so we could go. JOHN: And your life was about to change JOHN: It was about to change in the most terrible and tragic way that a person could imagine. I ve read your book, and it recounts the story. You went to the parking lot, you got into your car, and sat in the driver s seat ready to drive. Jon did not immediately get into the car. He was on the phone. And while he was on the phone, you heard him say something. KAREN: I did. I heard him say spoon, and when he said spoon, I thought they re just joking back and forth, because he and his friend would always joke. My husband was a jokester. He joked and laughed about everything. So he said spoon but then he said, Man, get that out of my face! When I heard that, I thought maybe his friend had cracked a joke or something, and Jon was telling him to cut it out.
4 It Is Written Script: 1215 From Grief to Grace Page 4 But then I heard, POW! and I just sat there. JOHN: You didn t respond. KAREN: I did not respond. I just sat there. I heard the sound, but I just discounted it as being something that happened way off in the distance. When I didn t hear anything, I turned and looked to my right. And he wasn t there. Again, I went back to my forward position, just looking. After a few seconds and again I don t know how long it was I turned and looked over to my left, and I saw this man with a shotgun on his shoulder, and the gun was pointed up to the sky. And when I saw that, immediately everything started coming back. Immediately I realized, He s been shot! JOHN: What did you do? KAREN: Immediately I opened up the car door to find my husband. When I opened up the car door, the murderer turned around robotically, and he looked in my direction. I ducked because I thought he saw me and was going to come back to kill me as well. What kept going through my mind is, I can identify him, he saw me, he s going to come back and he s gonna kill me. So I m shaking, and I m ducking so that he wouldn t see me, but I saw him. I saw him the whole time. I was praying, but I can t tell you what I was saying. When he didn t see me, he turned around again, very robotically, and started walking away from the car. When he did that, I knew I needed to get out and find out where my husband was. So I immediately jumped out of the car, and I ran around to the passenger side, and I could not believe what I saw. My husband was lying there on his back, with his eyes closed, and all I could see was his jugular vein pumping. All I could think was that if I stayed there, he was going to die. I needed to get help, so I ran back into the restaurant. JOHN: Let me ask you. At that moment, how much hope did you have that Jon was going to survive that Jon would live? Or were you even thinking about that? KAREN: All I could think about was getting help. At that moment, I thought that if I got help, he would live. So, yes, I did have some hope there. But when I got inside the restaurant, it was very difficult for me to get the attention of the patrons and of the management there, because of the music was so loud, the TVs were blaring, people were laughing
5 It Is Written Script: 1215 From Grief to Grace Page 5 I started screaming, My husband s been shot! But nobody heard me. And so, I changed my plea and said, Call 911! My husband s been shot! There were two men sitting at the bar who heard me, then turned around and asked what had happened. I said, There s a man outside who s shooting. My husband s been shot! They immediately ran outside with me and I pointed to our car and told them my husband was there. But they could still hear the murderer shooting in the air, and you could hear round after round going off. I told the men I was going to run back to my husband s side. And they said, Ma am, no, you can t go. I pleaded, Why? And they said, Because it s too dangerous. I said, But he needs me. They said, No ma am, you need to go back inside. And I was like, Why, why, why? He needs me! One thing I was thankful for was that there were Christians in that restaurant that night. They started coming around me and started comforting me, praying for me... JOHN: And it wasn t long after that, you received word that your husband wasn t going to make it. KAREN: Later, I guess maybe a half hour or so later, this other lady walked up to me. She was a nurse, and she said, Ma am, I tried to give him CPR, but they wouldn t let me. And then she walked away. When she said that, I knew. I said, He s not gonna make it. JOHN: What do you do? You were full of hope. That year was supposed to be a great year. And that very night, randomly, everything ends. The life of the one you love most is tragically, senselessly, and brutally ended. And then you ve got to go ahead and make a choice: Am I going to live my life, and put the pieces back together, or is this going to destroy me as well? RETURN TO PROGRAM AFTER BREAK: On March 25, 2006, Karen Johnson s life was forever changed. She and her husband Jon had enjoyed an evening together, when Jon s life was tragically and brutally cut short by a man high on methamphetamines, wielding a shotgun and carrying a Satanic Bible.
6 It Is Written Script: 1215 From Grief to Grace Page 6 I don t think it s very hard for us to imagine the sorts of emotions Karen felt after that awful event anger, malice, bitterness. We can imagine these things. But Karen was confronted with a choice. Do you let your life fall apart? Do you fall into a pit of despair and bitterness and hate? Or somehow, do you try to piece your life back together again, and go on with your head held high and your dignity intact? Karen, that s the decision you were confronted with. What was your response to that question when it was asked of you? KAREN: It was very difficult, of course. Numerous things continued to happen as I was going through the grieving process. One of the most difficult things for me was to be able to come to terms come to grips with the fact that my life had changed forever. I felt so displaced. I felt I could relate to Joseph being thrown into the pit. I could relate to Job when he lost everything in the twinkling of an eye. It was just all gone. Those stories, believe it or not, John, helped me to somehow bring perspective to what I was dealing with. I couldn t even breathe, I couldn t even imagine living past my next breath. It was just that hard. It was that difficult. But I knew that I didn t want to die, and I knew I had to put my life back together again. JOHN: Now, as a Christian, you re supposed to be able to lean on Jesus, but as a Christian, we can go through this life thinking, Well, God is going to protect me, God is going to keep harm from coming to me. Yet in His whatever we re going to call it providence, or wisdom, or allknowingness, God allowed this tragedy to strike. Were there moments when you were angry with God? KAREN: No. JOHN: No anger with God? KAREN: No. JOHN: Which is a remarkable thing. What kind of conversations did you have with God? KAREN: Why? I needed to know why. I wanted to know why, I needed to know why, but I wasn t angry, because I know that we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and all of that. I knew that. I know about this great controversy between good and evil between Christ and Satan. I knew that. So somehow, I realized that I was a part of this great controversy.
7 It Is Written Script: 1215 From Grief to Grace Page 7 The question was: what do I do with this? So I proposed in my heart to turn evil into good, but it wasn t easy and it was a process. JOHN: It had to have been a monumental struggle. KAREN: All I wanted to do was to bring glory and honor to God. At the funeral, I wanted to put my husband away in decency and in order. And it was a decision that I had to make. My sister said to me, You know, you come from a very strong family, so I thought about that and I thought about my relationship with Christ, and it kept me strong. As did the people who rallied around me. JOHN: So instead of pushing you away from God, like it would for so many people, this event drew you urged you even closer to God. KAREN: More than ever before. JOHN: And you were able to find strength from God in a senseless, terrible situation. KAREN: I was. And, as I said, the big questions for me were, Why? Why me? Why now? Why did this have to happen? Why? He revealed a lot of things to me, but why was the big question, so I wasn t angry. I just wanted to know why and it drew me closer to Him. I turned to Him instead of turning away from Him. JOHN: Something you just said is a big theme in your book, Covered and Kept. Forgiveness is a process. JOHN: So you were able to bring yourself to a healthy place. JOHN: But it didn t happen just like that. KAREN: No, it didn t. No, not at all. I am into health and fitness, I follow the eight laws of health, and I teach health reform to my students. I had to put all of this together. When it happened, I did not want to exercise. I had lost 16 pounds in a week and a half. I was very weak. I was very distraught. But I knew that I had to again start practicing the principles that I was teaching and preaching to my students.
8 It Is Written Script: 1215 From Grief to Grace Page 8 JOHN: And if you were ever going to be whole, if you were ever going to be complete, if you were ever going to be a functioning successful Christian, you were going to have to make a decision regarding forgiveness. As a Christian, you started wrestling with the question of forgiveness, and even forgiving the man who brutally took the life of your husband, JOHN: As you wrestled with that, God brought you to the cemetery and spoke to you here. KAREN. Yes, He did. JOHN: How did He do that? KAREN: Through His Word speaking to my heart. I just kept being pulled here and I couldn t understand why. I would go to an appointment with my mental health therapist, and right after the appointment, I would come right here to the cemetery. I d stand right where we are standing and I knew Jon was dead, in the grave. But I was talking to the Lord. I was praying. And I was asking Him to show me how to forgive and I had more than one person to forgive as well. But it was here at the cemetery that I was able to find that peace. JOHN: And Karen, it was in the courtroom, on the day the man who murdered your husband was sentenced, that God gave you the opportunity impressed upon your heart to do something that most of us would find absolutely remarkable. How did that happen? KAREN: Well, again, I did not know what I was going to say. My friend prayed with me and said, Let s allow Jesus, the Lord, to put the words in your mouth. Everything was orchestrated where I would be the only person who would speak on that day to share with the judge, the courtroom and the defendant how I was impacted. I did not know where I was going to go with my words. I started off with independence, but in the end, I looked the murderer in the eye and I told him I forgave him. I went on to tell him that I do not condone with he did, but I forgave him. Now, up until that time, he showed no remorse whatsoever, and that statement resulted in the first reaction I saw from him the first reaction to show us that he had somewhat of a heart. He didn t say anything out loud but he mouthed the words, Thank you. JOHN: I read in your book, Covered and Kept, that he actually said thank you twice.
9 It Is Written Script: 1215 From Grief to Grace Page 9 JOHN: I know you are going to understand what I mean when I say this, but if there is anyone in this world who did not deserve forgiveness, it s the man who murdered your husband. He was in the wrong. We could go through a whole long list of things. KAREN: Yeah. JOHN: From a human point of view, he did not deserve forgiveness. KAREN: Right. JOHN: But that is not the standpoint you were operating from. KAREN: It was not. I know now, and I knew then, why God kept sending me to this cemetery, because as I drove around here crying sad, remorseful, depressed I was playing Via Dolorosa by Jaime Jorge. I would listen to that with tears rolling down my face, and what I could see was Jesus hanging on the cross. That s what He showed me. That s what I could see. He didn t die just for me and you, but He also died for the Aaron Dunns of the world those people who murder and do wrong. And again, there are consequences to our actions and I wanted him to understand that, but also I wanted him to understand that he has an opportunity to give his life to Christ if he chooses, and that was the message I believe God wanted me to share with him at that time. JOHN: That s the message of grace. It s the same mercy that God has shown sinners like me... JOHN:...which you then extended and demonstrated to this man guilty and sentenced to death. KAREN: Yes, sentenced to death, that s right. JOHN: But you showed him grace, forgiveness, and pardon undeserved. JOHN: That is one of the powerful things about your story. It mirrors what God has done for me and you. What God has done for everybody. KAREN: Yes, I agree!
10 It Is Written Script: 1215 From Grief to Grace Page 10 JOHN: Thanks for sharing your story with us. God is a God of great grace. A God of great mercy. He is a God of justice, but He is a God who is good. There are people in this world us among them who do not deserve forgiveness or grace. But God, through his Son Jesus Christ, has come to this earth to offer us pardon, forgiveness, cleansing, and wholeness, even though we do not deserve it. God has offered that to us. Let s pray together now and thank God for that goodness for that grace. PRAYER: Our Father in Heaven, we can say thank you today because you are good when we are not. You are great and good and right. I thank you that for the sinners of this world, you offer grace, pardon and forgiveness. We don t deserve it, but as Karen has demonstrated, grace is so powerful when it is not deserved. And Lord, I wish that it would have a powerful impact in our lives now. Bless us please, for your honor and glory, in Jesus name. It Is Written Box O Thousand Oaks, CA USA Tel: (805) Fax: (805)