VACATIONS AND DIVINE APPOINTMENTS

In recognition of the 2 year anniversary of The Ruminant Scribe, I am reposting the first blog post dated April 15, 2015:  VACATIONS AND DIVINE APPOINTMENTS posted April 15, 2015

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.

Mt. McKinley from train to Denali National Park
Mt. McKinley from train on the way to Denali National Park.

This is a view of Mt. McKinley [now known as Mt. Denali] 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 the 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.

Landscape Rainbow, Seward Highway, Alaska
Landscape Rainbow, Seward Highway, Alaska

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!

Father, two years after this was originally written, this is still my prayer.  Thank You for loving us and for sending Your Son so He could prepare the way for us to live with You eternally, through faith in Him alone.

THE BEAUTY OF HUMILITY

The Christmas Season. A time marked by packages to buy, wrap and send; cards to sign and post; food to prepare for the family and food to take to gatherings of friends; church events to attend; civic concerts of beautiful music hear. Anyone remember the Babe in the manger?
When the world’s focus is on giving and “doing good” during this season, we can even become arrogant in boasting about our busyness; the calls that we have upon our time, talents and finances; and what we have done for others.
Humility has, from the beginning, been difficult to find among mortal men. Adam and Eve turned their back on humility and sinned when they ate the forbidden fruit in their attempt to “be like God”. Genesis 3:5.
But Scripture reveals that we have no basis to be proud or arrogant.

O LORD, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.
Psalm 144:3-4.

According to Scripture, we are temporal, finite, sinners who have absolutely no standing with God. While we may look good to other sinners here on earth, we have no basis to stand puffed up before God. Anyone remember the Babe in the manger?
When I have forgotten the priority of humility, I have to confess, seek forgiveness, and then refocus on the right attitude before God. For me, the best way to remember just who I am is to look at God’s creation and to read His Word.
• The majesty of the mountains.

Mountains view in Alaska (C)
Alaskan mountain range with Mt. McKinley, now Mt. Denali, in background.

The strength of the hummingbird. Beauty with wings fluttering going so fast we can’t see them with the naked eye!

Hummingbid getting a drink (C)
Hummingbird getting a drink without standing on the feeder, still using wing power even while eating.

The vastness of the ocean.

Ocean waves  (C)
The ocean, continually moving and teeming with life.

The incredible variety of creatures that inhabit the seas.

Fish from Mississippi Marine exhibit 3
Coral animals alive in the Gulf Marine Specimen Lab.
Fish from Mississippi Marine exhibit 8
Are you looking at me? Fish in Gulf Marine Specimen Lab.

 

Fish - Florida Spiny Lobster
Florida spiny lobsters.

 

The detail in a flower.

Flowers at Hotel Alyeska, Alaska,
Flowers in the mountains of Alaska, at Hotel Alyeska.
Flowers (3)
Flowers blooming in brilliant purple.

The beauty of the newborn baby. All the parts of an adult but in miniature.

Newborn baby girl (C)
Newborn baby daughter, alive with all sorts of possibilities ahead of her.

 

God is at work in His creation and in my life on a moment by moment basis. He is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (all over, everywhere), and He has extended His grace to us through Jesus Christ, His Son, and our Savior.
What is the response to this powerful, present Creator God? It certainly is not strutting our stuff before Him, as if we could accomplish anything without Him!
Rather, it should be the response that Abram had when God told him that He was making a covenant with him. Genesis 17:3 says:

 Then Abram fell on his face.

When the people of Israel were standing outside Jericho and Joshua, their leader after Moses’ death, was looking for guidance from the Lord:

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Joshua 5:13-15.

It should be the response that Ezekiel had when he had a vision of the Lord in His heaven.

Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Ezekiel 1:28

When confronted with the holiness of God, we come face to face with the reality that we are sinners and the magnitude of our unrighteousness is directly before us. There is no puffing or grandstanding before God – we bend the knee, we bow our head, we prostrate ourselves and we submit to Him.
We should have the same attitude that Mary expressed to the angel after being told that she would be the mother of Jesus.

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38.

Of course, the ultimate example of humility is found in our own Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Babe in the manger grew up into our Savior. In His teaching, Jesus said:

The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Matthew 23:11-12.

Anyone remember the Babe in the manger?

The one who left heaven to come to earth, not as a king or mighty ruler but as a baby, was found in a manger, the rough feeding trough for the animals. It was not the sterile, washed and well-padded baby bed that we find necessary for our newborn children.  It is this Babe that Paul is talking about in Philippians 2 when he exhorted the Christian believers to have the same attitude as Jesus Christ had when He came to earth … humility.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8.

May this Christmas find us with an attitude of humble thanksgiving for the grace and mercy God has showered upon us through Jesus Christ His Son. The Babe in the manger became the Lamb on the cross who was crucified for our sins and transgressions. The Babe in the manger then rose from the dead and became our resurrected Lord and Savior. Salvation is possible because of that Babe’s obedience to the will of our Sovereign God and Father, and we receive that salvation through faith and trust in that Babe whose name is Jesus Christ.
Let your Christmas be blessed by our Lord as we serve Him with His heart of humility and peace. Humility is the mark of our Lord on His children, and it creates beautiful lives lived in His Spirit for His glory and honor, this Christmas as well as each day that He grants us life.
Father, I pray that I would live my life in humble obedience to your will, as exhibited by Mary upon the angel’s announcement to her. I pray that you would empower me to do that which you direct, and that you would receive honor and glory as we celebrate our Lord’s birth and your work in human history on Christmas Day.