TO GRIT OR NOT TO GRIT — THAT IS THE QUESTION!

Okay, I will admit that I was born and raised North of the Mason-Dixon Line and that I had never had grits until I was in the process of moving from Chicago to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I had stopped for the night, somewhere between Nashville and Chattanooga, and had breakfast at the restaurant adjacent to the motel.

When ordering breakfast, I asked for “milk”.  Does anyone know what “sweet milk” is?  The waitress, for clarification of my request for “milk,” asked if I wanted “sweet milk”.   After declining either chocolate milk or milk that had added sugar in it, the waitress walked away.  There clearly was a failure to communicate.  I am confident that she was thinking “Bless her heart”, in the southern way that means “poor, pitiful person!”

(I have since learned that in the South, at least when this occurred, restaurants would have buttermilk available for their patrons, so to distinguish between it and what would be regular milk in the North, non-buttermilk was often referred to as “sweet milk.”)

When the meal came, I saw a serving of eggs, bacon, toast, and oatmeal on the plate with white milk as the beverage.   Now, I was not used to eating oatmeal on a plate – we always used bowls.  But, I was moving into the South, so I attributed it to different customs, etc.

So, after eating the rest of the meal, I poured cream onto the oatmeal and after a bit of swishing it around, I took a bite.  It really did not taste like oatmeal to me – it wasn’t bad, just really odd oatmeal.

When the waitress came back, I asked why the oatmeal was served on a plate because it made it very difficult to eat.  You can understand, it ran all over the plate and couldn’t be corralled onto my spoon.

The waitress said “Oatmeal?  Did you want oatmeal too?”  I responded “No, I had not asked for it but it was on the plate.”  To which she grinned and said with a voice that sounded like the quintessential southern belle:

“Honey, that wasn’t oatmeal – that was grits!”

Who knew?  In the South, at least 40 years ago, you got grits whether you ordered them or not … they were the ubiquitous food made from ground corn that just showed up on your plate.

Obviously, my introduction to grits was not particularly formal or well-timed, although it was apparently humorous as I recall people in the restaurant watching me slurp my “oatmeal” all around the plate.  I am sure they knew I was not “from ‘round here” when I said “GRITS?!” a bit too loud to be proper.

After four decades, I have grown in my culinary skills and tastes so that now I will even order grits, on purpose, when eating out.  I have made instant grits at home (even though “No real southerner would dream of eating instant grits”, a comment that calls to mind the cook at the diner in the movie My Cousin Vinny.)

Proof of this transformation can be found in the fact that I just downloaded a recipe for cooking stone ground grits in the slow cooker – here is the picture of the grits from this recipe, in a cup I might add!  [http://addapinch.com/cooking/easyrecipe-print/2224-0]  Apparently, I have morphed into a quasi-southern girl, I guess!

Picture of grits that were prepared in a slow cooker.
Picture of grits that were prepared in a slow cooker.

I am at a loss, though, about one question … can you eat just one (1) grit?   Who would want to … it certainly would not fill you up.  But you never hear that “a grit” was served at the meal.  You only hear of “grits”, plural.  As a collection of grits, they are beneficial and healthy; and, with some cheese melted into them, they taste incredible.  In short, grits are better when there is more than one.

Moving to the spiritual plain, I think grits are somewhat like Christians.  I am not talking about being in a commune or cult, nor am I advocating withdrawal from society to be with your group alone.

You certainly can be a Christian all alone, and indeed, your relationship with Jesus Christ as a child of His is intensely personal.  No two people come to the Lord in the same way, and He ministers in and through His people in unique ways equipping them with various abilities, all for His purposes.

But, Christians are called to meet together for teaching, preaching, fellowship, and ministry.  While our faith in Jesus is personal, it is not in isolation. We come together as a family of believers and worship our God and His Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ..  Some of our houses of worship are large and grand.

Canterbury Cathedral where there have been worship services for over 1400 years!
Canterbury Cathedral where there have been worship services for over 1400 years!

Some are not are grandiose, or as ancient.

Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC
Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC

Some are more rustic, but the Spirit of our Lord resides within the believer and, when we come together, there is the Spirit of the Lord.

Church in Cades Cove, Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee
Church in Cades Cove, Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

And sometimes we even come together in our homes, to study the Bible, pray and fellowship with each other.  We come together as did the early church in Acts 2:42, 27:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. … And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The writer of Hebrews said:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25

We do not become Christians simply by being around Christians.  We must have our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ for that new birth transformation to occur.  But, we will have a hard time staying on the path of Christ if we do not avail ourselves of one of the means of grace provided by our Father, His Son and The Holy Spirit – the Body of Christ, the Church.

A grit will still be a bit of ground corn even if it is not with any other bits of corn.  But it will not serve its purpose until and unless it is with a group of other grits; and then it will become nourishment for those who consume them.

A coal burning brightly in the fireplace will still be a coal even when it is taken out of the fire and put on the side.  But it will go out without the nourishment of the fire.  It will not be doing that which it was created to do unless and until it is returned to the fire so that it can burn hot and provide light and heat to those around it.

A Christian can be a Christian without being an active part in the Church; but the likelihood is that the light will become dull and the witness will be shallow and undernourished without regular intentional fellowship, worship, teaching, studying, serving and communion with fellow Christians in the Church.

Father, thank you for the lesson of grits.  May I determine to be part of a Bible believing church that follows the pattern of Act 2 in learning the Scripture and the apostles’ teaching, in prayers with and for others, in fellowship with Christians who worship and serve my Lord Jesus Christ, and in regularly sharing communion with fellow believers as we remember the sacrifice that our Lord made for us.  Thank you for the means of grace you so marvelously provided.  Forgive me when I have either ignored them or taken them for granted.  Such arrogance is sin and I ask forgiveness, in my Lord Jesus’ Name.

WHO IS HOLDING YOUR HAND?

Church in Cades Cove, Tennessee
Church in Cades Cove, Tennessee

There was a song that we sang in my home church when I was a child and the words went something like this:

I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know Who holds tomorrow
And I know Who holds my hand.

I believe the title of the song is “I know who holds my hand”. I have tried to find out who authored the lyrics to give credit where credit is due and all I have come up with is “unknown” as the author. I don’t remember the words to the rest of the song, but I know that the part I have quoted has been part of my being for many decades and has provided peace and comfort through its text.

My parents and me
My parents and me

So – Who holds my hand? My parents held my hands and took me to church, telling me of God, of Jesus and His love. But, both of them are now gone. Now, my loving husband holds my hand, but he, like I, cannot know what tomorrow may bring.

In our fallen, sin-sick world, there are times when situations come upon you that stun you into complete silence. Circumstances arise that you could not have imagined, and, if you had been told of them before they actually happened, you would have vehemently denied that such an event would even be possible!
But then it happens, and what was formerly unthinkable becomes not only possible but fact, and you are left with shambles in your hands, a hole in your heart, and confusion reigning in your mind.

U.S. Marines at the Barracks, Washington D. C.
U.S. Marines at the Barracks, Washington D. C.

One such situation arose in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Thursday, July 16, when a gunman drove to a recruiting office and started shooting through the windows; he then drove to a Marine Reserve Center and started shooting, ruthlessly taking the lives of four members of the United States Marine Corps, one member of the U. S. Navy, and injuring a number of others before he was stopped by the Chattanooga Police. Men who defended our country in war overseas were gunned down in their own country.

U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, Washington, D.C.
U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, Washington, D.C.

They didn’t know when they left home for work that morning that it would be their last day on earth. Their families didn’t know that they were about to lose a beloved member of the family. Chattanooga didn’t know that the city would be rocked by the act of a shooter who killed indiscriminately that morning.

As we watched the news about Chattanooga, the similarity to the news from Charleston, South Carolina came to mind as we remembered the carnage at the Mother Emanuel Church just a few weeks ago.  Nothing can prepare you for such an event.   It was unthinkable until we had to face the fact that it was, indeed, a reality.

Empty platitudes are insufficient to offer a balm or salve for hearts that are ripped open by grief.   As we try to recover from the shock and enormity of the carnage, we must remember all the promises that we have in Scripture through the grace and mercy of our God and Father.

Who holds my hand? Who can give solace and peace when things fall apart? Who is Strength, Comfort and Everlasting Love?

It is my God, my Savior and my Comforter.

  • God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
    • Old Testament: God is not limited in time, as are we. Indeed, He is the perpetual I AM. See Exodus 3:13 where God tells Moses that I AM is directing Moses to lead the people out of Egypt.
    • New Testament: This thought is reiterated in Hebrews 13:8 where we read: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”
  • God is the lover of my soul.
    • Old Testament: Isaiah 38:17 reads: “Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.”
    • New Testament: Jesus said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
  • God is also my Redeemer and my Savior.
    • Old Testament:
      • Job 19:25 says: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth….”
      • Isaiah 48:17 says: “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.’”
    • New Testament:
      • Paul says in Galatians 4:4-5: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
      • John 3:14-16: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
      • John 6:35: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’”

So, where do you draw your strength and comfort in difficult times? We who are Christians are called to be strength and comfort to those who are grieving, hurt and distressed.  We are to be the hands and feet of Christ as we live out our faith to others, especially during difficult times like these.  We can pray for them, comfort them, and provide assistance because even the routine things will be difficult for the families who have had their lives disrupted in such a brutal way. This is not to minimize the tragedy at all, but ultimately, the best thing we can do is to point them to Jesus Christ who is the Source of real comfort and peace here and forever more..

So, Who is holding your hand?

WHERE IS THE PEACE?

Our world is so frenetic, we often feel that we are penned in by so many obligations that there is no way out. We have the calendar calling our name when the alarm rings in the morning. We have the cell phone buzzing to tell us people need our viewpoints immediately, whether we are ready or not. We have the children calling for our attention even as we are trying to work or fix breakfast. We have our spouse who seeks our attention even as we are preparing the evening meal. We have the iPod clanging that we have new emails that have not yet been read, and when we break into our activity to attend to the emails we find that they are advertisements for products we don’t need. The telephone distracts our attention with a recorded message for the politician or for the survey that some marketing company wants. Then there are the charities that call, the handicapped, the symphony, the church, the various ministries that we support … EVERYONE wants our attention on a daily, hourly, minutely basis! Peace is a desired characteristic of our daily, personal life but it often seems to be an illusion of the highest order in the reality of daily duties.

But then the news wreaks havoc on any semblance of peace that may otherwise have survived the daily distractions. Something extraordinary is subject of “Breaking News” and our mundane disturbances are brought into sharp focus as being what they are, relatively minor inconveniences.

Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC
Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC

Indeed, we have become aware of such “Breaking News” this past week when hatred interrupted a prayer service by barging into the walls of a beautiful, historic church in Charleston, South Carolina when a gunman opened fire and killed nine innocent people.   (Picture of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, taken from the church website.)

Because of the cell phone videos and the media coverage swarming the area, we who are miles away from the scene participate in the shock and sickening disgust at the carnage the actions of a lone gunman can cause. The actions were particularly malevolent given the place in which they occurred; the sanctuary of a church where people go to pray and seek solace from God and their brothers and sisters in the Faith. Such evil is almost impossible for us to contemplate.

Clearly chaos was released into that building that day. But, the gunman’s actions did not kill Christ’s peace notwithstanding the havoc wreaked on the victims’ physical bodies. The Spirit of peace, of love and of forgiveness was brought into dramatic contrast to the spirit of evil when the victims’ families told the gunman that, despite their profound grief, they forgave him and were praying for his soul.

Such love and peace is impossible on our own. Jesus commanded that love was to be the primary characteristic of His people. John 13:35. The Apostle John said:

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

I John 4:16.

Jesus further instructed that He would give peace, even in times of extreme distress. One such time recorded in Scripture was when Jesus told His disciples of His imminent betrayal, trial and crucifixion. Needless to say, His disciples were confused and afraid.

After telling them that He would send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to them, He said:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:17.

Then just before His crucifixion, Jesus told them:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

Easter Empty Tomb Depicted at Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England
Easter Empty Tomb Depicted at Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

The empty tomb is evidence that death has been overcome; Satan and evil have lost the cosmic war. Although in the short-term it may seem that evil is winning the contest, Jesus is the final victor. In other words, no matter what happens, we can have peace because, as He promised in John 16:33, He has overcome the world, including the evil therein!

Without a doubt, hatred won the headline for the day – but, those believers who were praying at the time of the shooting won the war.  Through Christ, they were victorious over evil on that dark day in Charleston.  They are with their Savior and are beyond any pain, tears or grief.

Because Jesus has overcome evil and death, His believers can have peace …

  • a peace that is resident within them through His Holy Spirit;
  • a peace that overcomes the evil in the world;
  • a peace that enables the victims’ families to forgive in the midst of their grief;
  • a peace that is truly beyond understanding. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7.

This peace was on display when the victims’ families expressed love and forgiveness for the one who had inflicted this unutterable loss on them.  No one was hiding their grief — this peace was transcendent over their grief.  This is the peace that is available to all who believe on Jesus’ Name and repent from their sins, accepting Him as their Savior.

Do you have this peace?

WHO IS MY MOTHER?

My mother died when I was 21. There was no extended illness to herald her departure – one day she was with us and the next she was with the Lord. I was not able to learn from her as I bore my own children, or to seek comfort from her after a failed marriage, or to share the blessing and joy of my marriage with my soulmate, Bill. She would never know my children or hear them call her Grammy. Decades have slipped through my fingers since her death, and I miss her still, but praise the Lord, He has provided other women who stepped into the role as mother to me and as grandmother to my children, even though there is no biological connection.

Paul had this feeling about a lady in Rome when he said in Romans 16:13: “Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me.” [New Living Translation]

Who is my mother?

I suggest that it is any woman who shares my spiritual DNA, a DNA that cuts across all races, nationalities, tongues and locations and which evidences our relationship with the Lord and, thus, with each other.

“Gramma” Ford and her “grandson”.

My own children were fortunate to have been a part of congregations where older Christians acted as grandparents to the children when relatives were hundreds of miles away. There was abundant love showered on my children by these saints.

Surrogate grandparents who are members of Christ’s Church can give children hugs and smiles when they see them, whether at church or in the store; they can babysit and care for the children of single mothers who need a break; in short, they share in children’s lives by being the hands and feet of Christ and the Church can be the “safe home” for so many children who have less than ideal home situations otherwise. Biology has nothing to do with it.

My Titus 2 mother and the children.

Then, too, there are the older women who can be a surrogate mother by being a mentor, counselor, or prayer partner! Those of us who are older can mentor the younger women who are motherless or whose mothers are not readily available to help or counsel. Titus 2:3-5 gives an incredible description of the relationship that is characteristic of Christian women.

Paul states the mystery of our relationship with other Christians like this:

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:16-17 [NIV]

Thus, Christians are related to each other through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, how do you identify your mother who has the same spiritual DNA? Look for any woman God provides who:

  • Is of assistance, encouragement, and of spiritual blessing to you.
  • Loves the covenant children of the church by teaching, working in the youth programs, even tutoring, and being a counselor to the young.
  • Is willing to be a spiritual mentor as she counsels you.
  • Is a role model for you as she meets the needs of the children, youth and elderly who are within her circle of influence.

Praise the Lord for His marvelous gift of deep spiritual relationships in the Church that are possible through the love of God and the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, who is your mother?

Or, perhaps the question is better phrased: “To whom can you be a ‘mother’ today?”

FLAT STANLEY

Several years ago we received an envelope in the mail box from our granddaughter who, at the time, lived in Louisiana.  It contained a cut out picture figure of a young boy, smiling and ready for adventure along with a letter advising that we were the ones to provide him with that adventure!  We were told that this was Flat Stanley and she was asking us to take him with us and to take pictures of him as we went about our day.  She then asked that we send the pictures to her for a project at school.

Being the accommodating grandparents that we are, we took many pictures of Flat Stanley, at home, in the car, at a restaurant, in the RV, at a meeting, at the church soundboard, even at a basketball game and later playing cards with us.  We had a good time thinking about where we could position Flat Stanley for another shot.  When we were done, we emailed the pictures to our daughter‐in-love so she could do whatever next was necessary for our granddaughter to finish her project.

            Ober+Gatlinburg Stanley in VanStanly helping on board  Stanly in truck UT basketball game                                 

When we were done, we were looking at the pictures and chuckling at how we had gotten Flat Stanley in so many different positions, activities, etc.  Then I began actually thinking about Flat Stanley.  Now, I know that this was a school project for our granddaughter.  But, who is Flat Stanley?

I saw Flat Stanley as a cute, paper cut‐out boy who we hand‐positioned in various scenes for use in a school project.  We were careful with Flat Stanley: we did not hurt him or put him in peril.  But we did not really care if he wanted to participate in playing cards or going to the arena for basketball  – we never asked.  (I realize that he could not have responded to our inquiry, but that is beside the point I am trying to make.)  He was someone to be used for a specific purpose, not someone to get to know for his own sake.

Now, it has been awhile since we had children in elementarFlat-Stanley_edited-2y school and I, quite frankly, had not heard of Flat Stanley, at least not to my memory.  So, after the pictures were taken and we had sent them on their merry way, I did some research about just who in the world was Flat Stanley.  It turns out that Flat Stanley is a children’s book written by Jeff Brown and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer in 1964.  The premise of the original storyi is that Stanley Lambchop was flattened during his sleep when a bulletin board that was hung over his bed fell on him.  Thus, he became Flat Stanley.  One of the advantages of being flat is that he can be mailed in an envelope to his friends and so he can share adventures all over the world.  Ultimately Flat Stanley is pumped up back into his original shape but not until he has had quite some exciting times while he was flat.  So, now I know about Flat Stanley.

But this effort involving this little guy prompted me to wonder – do I see other people as Flat Stanleys,  Flat Sandys, Flat Sams or Flat Susans?   Do I see them as two‐dimensional people to be used for my own purpose and nothing more?  What is my first thought when I meet someone new ‐‐ “will this person be of benefit or help to me?” or “how can I make this person’s day brighter?”

Think about our interactions with people in our neighborhood, office, store, school, church.  Are we taking the opportunity and/or making the effort to get behind the surface of Flat Sam or Flat Susan to see the whole person, or at least as much of the whole person that they will allow us to see.  Are we trying to put ourselves in the visitor’s position and welcome them, not only with open arms (of course that is a very good start) but also by missing them if they are absent, and letting them know that they are missed? Or by calling during the week to see how they are doing, or just to lend a friendly ear?  Do we limit our friendship to the two dimensions we see in public or do we make the effort to get behind the façade and so that we can know them personally?  Are we friends‐in‐fact or simply friendly?

Of course, Jesus Christ speaks to our dealings with the Flat Stanleys in our world.   He describes one who learns about others and who helps them even to the detriment of himself in the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10.  The Samaritan stopped and helped a Jew ‐‐ he saw Flat Stanley on the side of the road but he did not leave him there, unlike the two earlier passers‐by.  The Samaritan went out of his way to help, even at his own personal expense, for this complete stranger of a hated people.  “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”  Jesus asked. (Luke 10:36)  The reply was that it was the man who had mercy on the injured traveler, at which point Jesus said “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)

The Christians in the early church were described in Acts 9:36 as always doing good and helping the poor.  Apparently, these early Christians did not ignore the Flat Stanleys in their world.  They looked at people, saw the need and responded to it as best they could.

I am quite certain that my granddaughter did not think about Flat Stanley in this light.  But the thought stuck in my head.  Do I see others merely as Flat Stanleys, Flat Sandys, Flat Sams or Flat Susans?   If so, perhaps I should spend time with the Lord and see how He would guide me to open my eyes and see that what appears to be only a two‐dimensional “flat” person actually is someone who has had many experiences that combine to create the individual I see.  The person is someone who has had trials and tribulations, hurts and histories that form a lens through which she views the world, and me.  Quite possibly, those hurts, trials and difficulties are not all in the past, and they are being hidden behind the façade of “okayness” while the individual is aching for someone just to care or show an interest.

In other words, the person I am looking at is just like me.   Do I want to be treated as if I am a Flat Linda, without substance, two‐dimensional who is of no import to anyone?  The answer to that question is a resounding, “No, of course not.”   If that is true, then I am above all a hypocrite if I treat others in such manner.   Each person is important to the Lord – thus, each person should be important to me as a child of His.

Flat Stanley might be out of sight and in his envelope resting at home now (perhaps he is on the floor under the laundry, or maybe even thrown away due to various moves the family has made), but the impression he made on me is much deeper than two‐dimensional.  I am thankful for the way the Holy Spirit used this little paper guy in my own heart and mind.  Now, to put the lessons of Flat Stanley into practice!

Here is where the “rubber meets the road!”

                                                        

i There are multiple books in this series and there are numerous other books being written to chronicle Flat Stanley’s exploits.  See:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Stanley

Vacations and Divine Appointments.

Sometimes we plan one thing only to find that God’s plan is a bit different than what we had intended. That was our experience when we, and another couple from church,  flew to Anchorage, Alaska for an Alaskan train tour!

Day one of the tour was a train trip to Healy, Alaska where, the next day, we would board a bus for a 13-hour tour of the Denali National Park. [DSC_0187This is a view of Mt. McKinley from the train on the way to the national park.] God’s handiwork was on display with mountains, streams, lakes, and wild animals that were everywhere to be seen. At lunch, we visited with a family traveling on a mission trip to an Eskimo village. We talked about our faith, churches, missions, and our tour day transformed into a personal time of worship and praise as we thanked the Lord for His goodness and power.

Then it happened – as we were preparing to get back on the bus for the return trip along the 92.5 mile road to exit the park (there is only 1 road in/out) – I fell down three steps onto a wooden deck. Not a long way, but it was far enough to severely break my left ankle. This ended our participation in the tour and it marked the beginning of a marvelous adventure with the Lord and an outpouring of love from Christians we did not know and who, even now, we cannot identify.

Fellow-travelers came up to me as I sat with ice bags on my ankle, and they simply touched my shoulder and said “we’re praying for you”.   The mission family repeatedly said they were praying during the balance of the trip. One man who saw me fall said he was praying for healing and for my back and head, due to the severity of the fall.

The park ranger/EMT arrived and tended to my ankle, getting me into the first of three ambulances I would ride to the Park exit. He was a tender, caring young man, notwithstanding his bulletproof vest and sidearm (the ranger also is the law enforcement officer in the park). We spoke of God’s intervention and protection as it appeared that my back and head were not injured.

Over 5 hours after I fell, we exited the Park only to find that the clinic in Healy had a doctor but no x-ray available for treatment so clinic personnel called for a taxi to take us to the hospital in Anchorage (it was either that or Fairbanks as the closest x-ray facilities), and the office assistant promised to pray for healing.

The taxi driver was a wonderful Christian lady who had moved from San Antonio to Anchorage with her mother and sibling when she was very young. We had an incredible time speaking of the Lord’s hand in her life and in ours. We said we would pray for her children and grandchildren and she said she would pray for healing and successful treatment of my ankle. The 6-hour trip through the night was transformed from a mere taxi ride to a time of praise for our Sovereign God.

We reached the Emergency Room at Anchorage Regional Hospital 12 hours after my fall. The ER was empty and we were met at the door by a nurse with a wheel chair.   They expertly treated my ankle, contacted a trauma orthopedic surgeon and made a doctor’s appointment for Thursday with surgery the following day. There, too, various persons gave encouragement and promised to pray for us during our time in Alaska. The flight home was scheduled for Sunday.

For various reasons we needed much more than merely medical assistance. For example, we had hotel reservations for that evening in Anchorage, but since we were on a train tour, we had reservations at different hotels at the various stops along the tour. It was obvious that our tour was over. Thus, we had no hotel room for the rest of the week before our flight home, and no rooms could be found in the Anchorage hotels since we were there at the height of tourist season. But God was in control.

The nursing supervisor saw us sitting in the hallway and asked if she could help us. She was able to arrange for us to stay at the Alaska House, the 7th floor of the hospital which was available for families of patients who could not get home due to the long distances involved in getting medical care in Alaska. (Remember, 6 hours away from the national park!) When we checked into the Alaska House on August 6, we found out that the program was being eliminated on August 30. God was in control, even over the contractor’s schedule so that the room was available when we needed it!

Multiple people we met offered assistance and said they would pray – the family on a mission trip, a minister friend of our son-in-law’s brother who lived in Anchorage, a young server at a neighborhood restaurant who gave my name to her mother’s prayer circle and then asked permission to do so, the counter clerk at the Subway in the hospital cafeteria, to name just a few.   In short, what started out as a simple vacation turned into a series of “Divine Appointments.”

On Saturday, before our Sunday flight, we drove along the Seward Highway in an attempt to salvage some sightseeing during our visit to the state. The sky was overcast and there had been rain along th?????????????????????????????????????????e way. As we rounded a curve, we saw a beautiful landscape rainbow. The clouds were above the rainbow and the ground was beneath: it appeared to be hovering over the ground. Bill stopped the car and grabbed the camera, as we looked out the window in awe at the beautiful display of God’s handiwork. He took the picture and it appeared that the rainbow was around the next curve as well. We drove to that spot but it was not visible; when we returned to the place of this picture, it was gone.

When I saw the rainbow, my spirit soared. It was as if God had sent that bow in the sky to remind me that there is no place that escapes His presence and to also remind me that He was present in my accident, pain and confusion. Further, He was providing an illustration through His creation of His protection for me. Yes, I had fallen and broken my ankle; that is the rain cloud. But, He was between me and the cloud – His protection was covering me so that I did not receive significant back or head injuries. It was yet again further confirmation that He is in control and I am in His care, no matter how the circumstances may appear.

In Luke 12:6-7, Jesus said: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” David says: “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.” In Psalms 139:4. If you want to know whether God cares about you, just ruminate on these statements from Scripture! (Even I don’t know every word before it is on my tongue! Oh for the times that I have spoken without thinking of the words I was saying …, but I digress!)

When the rainbow disappeared, it was a reminder that God’s presence is always with us, even though it is not always obvious to us at the time. The rainbow did not need to be stationary for a long time to accomplish God’s purpose – it just needed to be visible when we rounded the corner.

Often we tend to look at our situation in our microcosm of life and our focus is limited to that which we see here and now. We work and are active in our assigned tasks but we do not see what God is doing elsewhere. Praise the Lord – He is alive and well and His church can be found all over the place, even in the “wilds” of Alaska.   Praise the Lord that we had our eyes open to see His visible promise of protection. If we had been drowning in self-pity, we would have missed His beautiful presence. He knows where we are and what we are doing, and He will send His messengers to give comfort and reassurance to us, even if that comes in the form of a rainbow.

What my husband and I saw of Alaska was beautiful; but what we experienced through God’s Divine Appointments was enriching beyond measure. Praise the Lord!

I pray that no matter what you are going through at this moment, you will be encouraged by the knowledge that He will be your strength through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.   Open your eyes, you might just see a rainbow sheltering you from the storm clouds of life!