But God

It is amazing and reassuring how many transitional words are in the Bible. Some examples are “then”, “but”, and “however”. The commonality I am focusing on are the passages where something was happening to a person or a group of people that was usually not very good, but then God’s Word takes us from that situation to a situation of hope and promise. This hope and promise come from faith and obedience!

Over the past month I was facing the possibility of being diagnosed with cancer. The original diagnosis concerned my doctor, so he referred me to a specialist and my understanding was that the appointment was for a biopsy. I confess that me being me I overthought the situation and while not panicked I was distracted not only by the impending procedure but what to do if the results were not positive. Apparently, there was some misunderstanding on the purpose of the referral visit as it turned out it was for further examinations and tests to see if the specialist felt a biopsy was needed. I praise God and thank Him that the second visit determined me to be very low risk and no biopsy was necessary.

However, the experience gave me a different perspective because this was nothing like I had ever faced. I had a myriad of emotions and thoughts, finding comfort in prayer and talking with some people very close to me who I confided with. I am thankful for a great medical team, but I serve an even greater God! Did I have cancer and God took it away? I do not know; but I know He can. Did God place this experience before me to give me insight and empathy towards others who are inflicted? I do not know; but I know He can.

I am seeking what God wants me to do with this blessing and His deliverance—a second chance if you will. Do I do what I often do and thank Him and move on? Or do I take the lesson He showed me and use it to help others? At this stage all I really know is this…But God…When His Word states that He has a plan and I pray I can learn to listen and respond better.

Psalm 73:26 reads, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”. Even in my weakness, “but God” steps in and is in control. I trust He is going to use this experience for His glory and purpose, despite my over-analysis. I believe we need to examine all aspects of our lives and see where He is intervening and then honor our Creator through faith and obedience.

The Sky Stood Still

This week we paused to remember the events of September 11, 2001. As with most events of this prominence we thought about where we were and what we were doing as the horrifying news broke. We also reflected on how we reacted in the aftermath. There were no empty church pews that week—sadly there are plenty now. Some went to the recruiter’s office to sign up while others went to their police and fire departments to do the same. Politicians from all parties stood arm-in-arm to show solidarity. Some were glued to their television watching the newly introduced bottom of the screen scroll waiting for the next bit of information. Some stockpiled survival rations in anticipation of further attacks. Others just sat in disbelief. We all reacted differently according to what we felt would help us understand the non-understandable. How could this happen? Why did this happen? What are we going to do about it? History has answered these questions for the most part, but at the time we were in a mental, emotional, and spiritual fog.

I was in the military at the time and my family and I had been recently assigned to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, in the Norfolk area. On that morning, I was meeting my new Commander for the first time. We were having a good discussion when he said some words I will never forget, “That’s not right, those are our alert jets!” I had no idea what he was talking about. We stepped outside to see two F-15 Eagles launching—he had heard the engine noise and knew they would not be going out on a training mission. At that point his aid busted into the room and told him to turn on the television. What we saw was a change in what we knew and something we will never forget.

This area is one of high aircraft traffic, both civilian and military, I became accustomed to seeing frequent and many contrails in the sky, to the point where I quickly began to take them for granted. If you are not familiar with them, a contrail is the trail of condensed water from and aircraft or rocket and is seen as a white streak against the sky. Seeing those two jet’s contrails changed me—the gravity of the situation changed me.

I was assigned to the Combat Control Center and was so new that I did not even have the right uniform with me. I was not ready for this, I did not feel properly trained, I was not qualified for what they were asking me to do. Having a bit of a “pity-party” after a particularly long and intense work shift, I sat outside and was contemplating all that was happening. Then it happened; I looked up and noticed the sky was still—there were no contrails where they should be. I knew the President had suspended all air traffic accept essential military missions but observing the blankness of the sky brought it home to me.

The world I lived in changed…the world our children would grow up in changed…the world changed. Many lives were lost that day and many more were and are still being lost because of the events of that day. But the contrails are back, the sky is no longer still, our resolve (despite some of our differences) is strong. I believe in the American spirit!

Through the turmoil, fear, uncertainty, and all the other emotions of these past 18 years I find peace through God—I cannot even imagine what would have happened to me without Him. Paul sums it up perfectly in Philippians 4:13 when he says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Who is your strength as you face your 9//11s? Who will walk with you and carry you after your 9/11s?

Dangerous Beauty

The photo accompanying this blog is an original. As I was recently tending our garden, I saw this spider guarding our crops (its web was pretty full of victims). I was amazed at the colors and the physical form of this spider—of its beauty. I almost wanted to touch it, but then realized I had no idea what was beneath that beauty—it could be poisonous—even at best it would defend itself and give a nasty bite! I decided to admire the beauty of this creature from afar and thank it for its work in the garden.

This scene made me think about the dangerous beauty we face is our lives and the more I thought about it, the more scenarios I came up with. Let me share a few:

– How many failed relationships are based on physical attraction alone?
– How many financial distresses are the result of us just having to have that dream house beyond our means?
– How many careers have been ruined because the only motivation was the paycheck?
– How many arguments have been caused just because we wanted that shiny new thing?
– How many goals have not been met because we took the appealing shortcut?
– How many health issues are the result of us choosing those things that are not good for us, but give temporary pleasure?
– How many dreams have been shattered because we listened to someone with nefarious motives who made it look good?
– How many times have we rejected God’s plan for us, because something else looks better?

God created many beautiful things in the universe. Indeed, people have to capacity to create beautiful things—I often marvel at the artistic ability of some people, the creative genius of a gifted architect, and the harmonious splendor that a skilled musician can produce. But I have also seen artwork that is hateful to a certain group of people, structures designed unsafely, and have heard music that glorifies evil. Even we can create things that are dangerously beautiful.

1 Peter 3:3-4 states, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quite spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” While Peter was specifically addressing wives in this passage, the message applies to all of us. When our focus is on external beauty, how we look, it can become dangerous because it can easily lead to greed, vanity, and misdirected focus. God cares about our inner beauty, that of a “gentle and quite spirit” because there is nothing dangerous about that kind of beauty.

Incidentally, this morning as I watered the tomato plants, I noticed our spider had a grasshopper in its clutches—it was dangerously beautiful!