A Suspicious Red-Tailed Hawk

The first golden sunrays had just stretched their fingers over the mountains and begun to play with the leaves of the wild cherry tree above me, when, from the low, delicate branches of that tree, a raucous cry startled me out of my stupor.

It was the aggressive screech of a wild red-tailed hawk, shattering the thoughtfulness of the morning.

I did not look up. I went on weeding the day lilies in Mrs. Henderson’s garden, suddenly very thoughtful.

The screech screamed out again, a powerful blast of sound. Then it melted into a rivulet of chirps and trills. I did not look up.

Continuing to weed the day lilies and looking straight down at the black dirt, I could see in my mind’s eye the cherry tree from which the commanding screeches had cried out. No natural or respectable Pennsylvania red-tailed hawk would choose a fragile weeping cherry frond eight feet of the ground as their vantage point from which to hunt.

Shout as he would, I knew red-tailed hawks for more than their screams. And I knew mockingbirds. 

I was not interested enough in this mockingbird to give him the time of day. So I kept on weeding, and thinking.

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I was thinking that this is just how disinterested true lovers of Jesus are in the screams of their enemy, Satan. As the chief of liars, he is an expert at making sounds he has heard before. He imitates everything he has seen. He has been practicing imitation and deception for thousands of years! But at the end of the day, he is still a songbird, never a bird of prey. He can never do what Jesus does. He cannot correctly imitate Jesus because he does not have enough power. He does not have enough knowledge. He has no access to the Holy Spirit of truth!

He can sound like a red-tailed hawk, but he does not know how to THINK LIKE A RED-TAILED HAWK. He does not have the heart, authority, courage or the power of a red-tailed hawk.

Today, warrior, gather up those billowing skirts of yours, tuck them between your legs and into your belt, and cinch that Belt of Truth just as tight as it will go! This sounds so vigorous, but do you know how it is actually done?

Your belt of truth is put on when you spend time in the Father’s presence! Spend time building relationship with the King of Kings, asking questions, obeying answers. Spend time recieving and then being taught by the Holy Spirit, who was specifically sent to you to teach you and guide you into all truth. Spend time filling your mind with the thousands of words of truth which are already written down and are available to you at any minute of the day!

When your mind is full of truth, you will not even glance up at mockingbirds.

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If my hike had a soundtrack…

The air was the perfect flavor of pine and clean wind as I sauntered along the smooth, shaded path past Lake Hebron that warm-but-not-too-warm day. The loons cried their short-lived daytime conversation and a bandana’d youth sat contemplatively underneath a fir tree, watching the reflection of clouds sweep across the slightly rippled water.

His iPod played a soulful tune and I thought it was a perfect soundtrack for the moment.

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I often thought I should have a soundtrack for this hike.

Not only a soundtrack, but an entire video recording of it that I could look back on if I ever forgot how incredibly, miraculously blessed I’d been to experience this.

In case I forgot the Me I Used To Be.

If I had a soundtrack for this hike, it would have begun low, building slowly in tight-stringed suspense. There would be lots of creepy segments in this first soundtrack, that would make you want to look over your shoulder or stand with your back against a wall. There would be tense notes–lots of them in fast succession. There would be a happy, frolicking piece. And then a mournful, low bar, full of pain.

As the soundtrack for my hike went on, the suspenseful notes would lessen and the smooth notes would gain the upper hand. There would be not so many creepy segments. Not so many tense pieces. But the mournful bars would continue, transfusing pain into the listener.

There would be short bursts of heavy metal. A few screams.

Lots of upbeat parts.

The final segment would start hauntingly beautiful, maybe just a solitary oboe or maybe a windy flute. There would be pattering and low, persistent whining notes and maybe a few screeches of nail on a chalkboard. Then there would be a clash of cymbals and the soundtrack would take on a folk song vibe. Another clash, and then a long piece on the piano, building momentum. Then a loud, long clash, with drums. And then my soundtrack would be one continuous dance party, ending with the Hallelujah chorus.

Well, I don’t have a soundtrack for my hike, but it would be a lot more concise to explain if I did. I could just pop in the CD and everyone would experience the same feelings with me. Instead, I’ll have to use words to share the story, which is what I know.

It will do the same thing, just take longer.

I jumped out of my reverie when my feet hit a paved road. This was Pleasant Street, and it would take me to Shaw’s Lodging in just 1.6 miles.

I hadn’t gone far before Poet, the owner of Shaw’s, zipped towards me in a trendy SUV. There were already three hikers inside, but my pack just fit under the dusty hatch, and I slid my boney self into the back seat.

It was stinky inside that car–sweat, mostly.

Poet had the air conditioning on and didn’t seem to notice. But I took the time to consider that it was us three feminine hikers in the back seat who were making it reek. Somehow that just didn’t seem right.

Poet dropped the two girls off at the post office, then gave me and Turbo, the third hiker, a tour of his hostel. It was colorful and clean inside, with tablecloths on the tables, plenty of towels in the bathrooms and bedspreads on the bunks.

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“This is a really nice hostel, Poet.” I said, and he thanked me.

After hanging my hammock outside in the tree line, rustling through my food box, and making a quick tour of the small, friendly town, the sun had almost fully dropped below the horizon. I carried my box of coconut caramel ice cream into the dining room and ate it while uploading YouTube videos.

AJ and Poet bantered in the kitchen, and the hikers had settled into their typical 8-o’clock calm. A few sat playing scrabble at a table adjacent to mine and drinking Maine craft beer. They congratulated me on my voracious ice cream consumption and after awhile decided to stroll to the quick-stop for pizza. I had the dining room to myself.

I stared out the window at the luminescent glow of headlamps inside the tents scattered across the yard, and thought about how far my heart had come.

I remembered my first hostel visit. It was at Top of Georgia.

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Even though Renaissance greeted us with his famous flair and gave us a highly entertaining tour I had been too shy to really relax and join in the community there–too scared to hang out in the bunkhouse with the other hikers.

I’d sat on the porch in the damp, biting air instead, listening to the upbeat chatter coming from inside and eating spam and ramen. I could still taste the feeling I’d had then–that numbing, unshakeable belief that I was young, weak and clueless, and would never make it to Katahdin. I’d felt like a giraffe in a pet shop that March day.

Now it was August, and I couldn’t begin to list all the miracles I’d experienced in that six month span.

All I knew was that this place of dreadlocks and backpacks and new faces felt cozy and comfortable. Like home. How big my muscles were, how light my pack was or how much knowledge my brain contained didn’t matter anymore. I was equally comfortable alone on a wind-swept mountaintop or in another strange town in a sea of new faces.

It’s still hard for me to explain it. If I could play you my soul’s soundtrack you’d understand. But that’s impossible.

I guess I’d better get started on my book.

But in the meantime, you might be interested to know that there IS an actual Appalachian Trail soundtrack coming to an orchestra near (or far away from) you!

I met this composer after I collapsed onto a bench in Madison Hut after a 14 hour race across the presidential range one Sunday last month, and he shared his incredible vision with me over a lukewarm pile of homemade dinner leftovers from the hut kitchen. You can find out more about his Appalachian Trail Symphony here: http://keanesouthard.instantencore.com/web/home.aspx

 

 

He Gave Me a New Name

I stood on top of Fort Fredrick two days ago, and while ants bit my legs and the sea breeze whipped my hair, Jesus and I had a conversation about love.

You gotta understand, I’m not so good at loving. Really though. I know you don’t believe me, but it’s true. I’m just learning now how to do it properly.

You see, I had a tower built in my heart. The cornerstones of this tower were Pain, Inferiority, Fear and Performance. Not a great family to build a tower on, to be sure, but I did. The small stones had many names… betrayal, mistrust, anger…. on and on to the sky.

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What did this tower surround? My ability to give and receive love.

Weird, isn’t it, that I would hide something that I wanted so badly to give away? I mean, how could I share something that was locked deep inside a fortress?

Well, I’ll tell you how it all started. I wasn’t always this way! One day, long ago, I started believing a lie. What lie? The lie that to love someone meant an instant assignment to protect them.

That is, after all what people do if they care about someone, right? It’s even, to the proper degree, scriptural. I was very good at it. Protecting those I loved came naturally for me.

But I took it too far.

I started crashing. I realized that I couldn’t be strong for everyone, so I started shutting people out. If it seemed like they were asking too much of me… too much strength when I was weak, too much emotional energy when I had none, I cut them off. Not from myself, mind you! From unlimited love. I just went only so far, and then stopped. They could visit my tower, but only stay as long as I allowed.

Why? Because if they stayed, I’d have to protect them…. fight their battles as well as… or even instead of… my own, and I already knew I couldn’t do that for everyone. I’d tried.

“There’s GOT to be a better way”, I thought one day. I was desperate for change. No, not change as in money. Change as in, a different way of living. A better way. I packed my bags and went on a long journey.

Up mountains, along crags, and through valleys I hiked, and along the way, I learned a new skill called “receiving love”. It meant valuing myself enough to accept words Jesus says about me that did not feel true. It meant valuing others enough to bless them by being a gracious receiver. It meant taking their love for what it is–a direct outpouring of love from Jesus Himself.

In return, Jesus pulled out the cornerstone named ‘Inferiority’ and my tower began to sag, just a bit.

With the love of Jesus now boiling inside of me, I powered onward, and found I had new courage to learn a second skill, called “saying no”. I learned, through Jesus the gentle Teacher, that sometimes it really was ok to say no… to a favor I was asked to perform, or to a task, or to a responsibility, or to a role. Sometimes it was better for everyone if I just said no.

No. That was a hard word for me, but I finally learned it.

In return, Jesus gave me a gift. Space! Space to let Him set my priorities. Space to love Him first. He grabbed the cornerstone named Performance and tossed it far from me in one mighty heave.

What did I do with all this new-found space? I used it to deal with the last cornerstone, Pain, and it’s ugly partner, Fear. Funny how the two go hand-in-hand.

Or claw-in-claw. It’s not funny at all, really.

Jesus said to me, “I brought you this far. Will you trust me? Will you trust me to know how much pain you, and the people you love can handle? Because if–no–when! When you trust me that much, you can love without limit knowing that when the people you love suffer, it will be for My glory, and that fact will make their pain worthwhile in your eyes!

You can live without fear because you’ll know that suffering will not last forever! That I always, always and always have something rich and spectacular in the making!

I, and I alone, hold the role of ‘Protector’. You can have so much more freedom to disappoint,–even hurt people, and still you’ll know, as long as you are pleasing Me, that they will be ok.

Will you let Me have My rightful place?”

Standing on the top of Fort Frederick, 25-knot winds threatening to blow me over the side, I said, “Yes! I will let you have that place!” I picked up a small rock, part of the fort’s wall, and threw it into the jungle with all my might. It crashed through the brush and disappeared.

In my mind’s eye, that rock was me, escaping the tower of self-produced love forever. The remaining parts of the tower–its last two cornerstones (Pain and Fear) smashed to smithereens–collapsed in a mighty crumbling, and blew away on the wind.

All that was left by the sea was me, Jesus, and our perfect love, alone in a real world where ants were still biting.

I’m so glad the last bit of that tower is gone.

The only walls that trap us are the ones we build ourselves.

 

Love Ambush

I’ve been a crab for twenty-four hours.

It all started when someone asked me a question, and I responded defensively and then the father of lies jumped in with all of his hogwash and made a mess of everything.

“You’re not worth fighting for.” he said, “You are selfish at the core, and think of no one but yourself. Your dreams are not reality. You have tricked yourself into following them as an easy escape from life’s problems.”

Because I was tired, weak in heart and still feeling defensive, I believed all of it.

My joy was robbed.

It’s messy enough trying to make big decisions for your future, but when you start believing lies… things get ugly pretty fast. Each lie is joined by it’s own disease until your heart is trampled.

Shame.

Defeat.

Anger.

People (and most animals) caught on pretty soon, and gave me a wide berth.

I sat at my desk the next day, trying to write encouraging words to a friend and finally decided that I needed some music for inspiration. The first song that played went like this:

“Whatever you’re doing inside of me… it feels like chaos but somehow there’s peace. It’s hard to surrender to what I can’t see, but I’m giving in to something heavenly. Time for a milestone… time to begin again. Revaluate who I really am.

So show me what it is you want from me.

I give everything….

I surrender….

Time to face up. Clean this old house. Time to breathe in and let everything out that I’ve wanted to say for so many years. Time to release all my held back tears. Whatever you’re doing, inside of me…. it feels like chaos, but…. I believe. You’re up to something bigger than me.

LARGER THAN LIFE.

Something HEAVENLY.”

While the “You’re up to something heavenly… bigger than me.” promise was still reverberating in my mind, the next words came through my speakers.

“Lord I come. I confess. Bowing here, I find my rest. Without you I fall apart… you’re the One that guides my heart. Lord I need you, oh, I need You. Every hour I need you.

My ONE DEFENSE.

My RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Oh God, how I need you. Where sin runs deep, your grace is more. Where grace is found is where you are. And where you are, Lord, I AM FREE!!

HOLINESS IS CHRIST IN ME.

Teach my song to rise to you, when temptations come my way. When I cannot stand I’ll fall on you. Jesus, you’re my hope and stay!!!!”

“Jesus… MY righteousness??” “Holiness is Christ in me?” I was overwhelmed.

“For real, Jesus? But…. my sins. They are HUGE! ”

“I AM your righteousness. It’s not about you at all. Where sin runs deep, My grace is MORE. Come to me, and you will be free.”

“Ok. I will!!!”

He smiled, and I could have swore He wrapped His arms around me.

My heart jumped into the sky. And of course, the next song that played was,

“I’m trading my sorrow! I’m trading my shame! I’m laying them down…. for the JOY OF THE LORD.”

THIS. This was what my Loving Father was holding out to me.

I received it, and cried.

Forgiveness overwhelmed me.

Yes, Lord. Yes. I AM blessed beyond the curse. Get behind me, satan. JESUS HIMSELF is fighting for me, and He will never stop.

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My Jesus is up to something LARGER THAN LIFE. Something HEAVENLY.

He does not despise me, but instead holds out HOLINESS, FREEDOM & GRACE.

His promise will endure, and His joy’s gonna be my strength.

He told me so Himself, in one big love ambush in my old-fashioned straight-backed chair.

And I accept His words.

My Best Addiction

Now that you all know I’m addicted to gummy bears….. (and oh happy day, I got a whole 1-lb bag of them for my birthday) I gotta tell ya’ll about my FAVORITE addiction.

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The one I plug into when I get upset at my boss.

Or when I’m preparing to teach.

Or when I’m bored by a mindless task.

Or when I’m driving, sitting, chewing, moping, running, or staring for hours at a blank computer screen.

Pretty much, I plug in all the time. My father loves it. Tiny kiddos love it. Basically, a win no matter who you are.

Am I gonna tell you what it is? Ohhhh no. Watch it on YouTube HERE.

And join the stampede of audio/visual learners!

We’re happy to have you 🙂

(Oh yeah…. and it’s available on Audible for free, with a one-month free trial subscription. You’re welcome.)

The Time When I Started a Church

Driving along a cold, forsaken road one dark night, my radio croaking out a mournful song,  I saw a church. A church that had a lighted cross by the highway, and warm, welcoming lights on inside, as if it was open to strangers and a crackling fire was burning in the hearth.

How strange!” I thought, “How very rare it is to see a lighted church at this time of day. I wonder if their doors are unlocked?”

“Hmm. That sight is like rest to my weary bones. If I ever started a church, I would have a parsonage, and leave the doors open and the lights on all day and night and people could come and go as they pleased, and always know that my church was a safe, private haven, always at their disposal.”

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And then I thought, “Ha! Start a church? Never!

There never WILL be perfect church.

Even if I gathered the smartest, most on-fire people to start my church, they would end up fighting. Wait, I bet that’s why, in the old days, there was just one man spear-heading the church. The parson. And the only person he had to get along with, if he wasn’t musically inclined himself, was the organist. A strange lot, those parsons, but still….. I think they were on to something with this one-man deal.”

So I planned it all out in my mind.

IF I was a man, and

IF I became a parson in the mountains of darkest Peru,

and IF I had my very own parsonage, I would win the people’s hearts for Christ and have a perfect church.

I would work tirelessly (with the help of many cups of coffee, of course) to meet all of their needs. I would love unconditionally. I would study the Word with passion.

I would preach the Gospel tirelessly, and speak truth in the face of lies. (But if I was feeling insecure, I would be silent.)

I would spend my last penny to bring cheer to my discouraged parishioners. (But some days, I would squander my last dollar on a bag of gummy bears, and eat them all in one sitting.)

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I would pray without ceasing. (But on days of total exhaustion, I would cut it short with the excuse, “I REALLY need my sleep.”)

The rickety little sign by the door would say, “Come just as you are!” But on a bad day, I would add “…but not if you have a dirty mouth, fart without shame, or act inappropriately towards the opposite gender”, because those are three of my pet peeves.

I would never judge a soul. (Unless it was someone who deeply hurt me.) I would fight for spiritual victories in my parishioners’ hearts. (Unless I was in a No-One-Is-Fighting-For-ME sort of mood, in which case I would block everyone out for awhile.)

I would do a lot of things, if I was a man, with a parsonage, in the darkest depths of deepest Peru.

But it would never be perfect.

Because I’m not.

Why do you stare at the tiny particle that is in your brother’s eye, but do not become aware of and consider the beam of timber that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me get the tiny particle out of your eye.”, when there is the beam  in your own eye? First get the beam of timber out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the tiny particle out of your brother’s eye.

Keep on asking and it will be given you! Keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, the door will be opened.

Matthew 7:3-5,7,8

Those words are for me.

“Keep on asking, Kara. Change begins inside of you. One day, when all of my children finally arrive in heaven, all of these imperfect temples will transform to become My spotless bride.”

Who are you AFTER?

She plugged her ears most of the time.

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She had a definite scowl on her turned-down face, and the bent of her shoulders screamed defiance.

She was the camper who did not like the teacher’s modesty discussion one bit. I was the camp counselor, and as I watched the body language of my other campers sitting knock-kneed on the picnic bench, I could tell that they felt the same way.

I felt sorry for my campers, because I knew their backgrounds, and the concepts they were hearing were totally blowing their minds. I also felt sorry for the teacher, who was putting her all into the lesson, & was being booed by part of the crowd while the other part was soaking up every word with hunger shining from their eyes. It was a hard mixture of people to speak to.

Later that night, as I sat cross-legged in a green camp chair, the mouths of 8 young girls around me exploded. “That was crazy!! I was so mad! Why in the world would it be sinful to wear bright colors, headbands, and shirts with pockets? How could a God of love hate me for a detail that small?”

Forreal, where is the fine line between young girls cheerfully following their parent’s standards without guilt, and when is it the right time to rise above them (or, in some sad cases, fearlessly defy them) to new heights of conviction? That wasn’t the biggest question that was gnawing at the girls’ hearts, though, and after all of the emotion was released, we finally got to it. “What things will keep us out of heaven?”

I once heard a very wise man say….. umm….. something very wise…. and this was it: “Don’t ask, “What’s wrong with that?”, because by asking what is wrong, you are implying that something is right. Instead, ask, “What does God say about this?”

So, what does God say about modesty? What does He say about bright colors, headbands, and shirts with pockets? I’ll let you do that research for yourself. But I do know what the very first commandment to God’s children is. It is this: LOVE the Lord your God with ALL your heart, ALL your mind and ALL your soul.

There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to them who follow Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but AFTER the Spirit. Romans 8:1

My version? “Now, there will be no condemnation [no charge of evil] brought against those who serve Jesus, IF they follow [relentlessly CHASE] after the ways of His Spirit instead of chasing after the earthly desires of the flesh.”

No charge of evil, that’s what Jesus promised to those who actively chase after Him.

Who are you after?

With Whom We Deal

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“The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbors glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it,

and the backs of the proud will be broken.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

THERE ARE NO ORDINARY PEOPLE.

You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations-these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is IMMORTALS whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit-

immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

–excerpt from With Whom We Deal, by C. S. Lewis

I found this old tidbit from speech class–well, I found much more than one tidbit, actually, an entire portfolio of tidbits–and it made me stop and think hard yet again.
How can/do you define the word ‘mortal’?

My Lantern Ignited a Tree

And then it was 2013.

As the first few minutes of the fresh, new year ticked their celebratory circuits around the clock, my friends and I released a cloud of paper lanterns into the night air.

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They floated solemnly at first, and then with a gust of hasty impatience shot straight up until they were only fairy specks against the obsidian sky.

Except for my lantern.

When I lit it, it tossed it’s papery nose into the air, turned a scornful back on its partners high aloft in the sky,

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and instead did a drunken dance across the yard.

And landed in a tree. Where it proceeded to smoke and burn in the most grotesque fashion, and began to ignite the branches.

To which we responded by pummeling it to the ground with snowballs.

Oh, how ironic.

I actually don’t believe in luck. You already knew that, right? But regardless of the fact, since the dawn of 2013 I have lost my smart phone, towed my car to the garage (to sit there helplessly until my bank account awakens from the dead), been stranded in sub-freezing temperatures, seen my friends deal with cruel and devastating situations, and watched the culminating effects of retinoblastoma in my 7-month-old niece.

At a bad moment, I’d say that 2013 has been pretty long already.

But then my mind wanders back to those pre-2013 moments around the bonfire.

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When I stared into the coals and remembered 2012. That rollercoaster year of challenges, and heart-wounds and wondering what in the world was the purpose for it all. The year of hopes dashed, and fears forged and dissolved, and finding out just how different the spiritual world is from the our tiny little world here on planet earth.

The year I drank the deepest draughts I have ever received from the bottomless well of the Father’s exuberant love for me.

The year I experienced the Holy Spirit’s power in ways far beyond the vision or imagination of man, and sat back time and time again without a word to say that could begin to describe my amazement.

The year I cast the lies of the devil far from me, and danced the dance that only the ones who are truly free can know.

The year I did things way beyond myself.

And as I sat there by that fire, do you know what the pervading thought in my mind was? POWER. Even though 2012 was one of the harder years of my life, the POWER of the Glorious King was clearer to me than ever before. He was unstoppable, beautiful and overflowing with passionate, personal love. And unlike our years, He never changes.

Somehow, I’ve got a feeling that 2013 is gonna be a good year.

But my bull-headed laptop computer declares that today is August 3, 2012. So we’ll have to wait and see.

“Look among the heathen, and regard, and WONDER marvelously! For I will work a work in your days that you will not believe, although it is told you.” Habakuk 1:5

When a roadblock becomes [a hug from heaven]

           

I never liked Cinderella.

And yet, on that mind-boggling day, I could almost say that I felt like her. Except that my coachman was a long-haired redneck with a Copenhagen ring. And my pumpkin-coach was a tow truck. And instead of leaving the ball too late, I nearly missed arriving at all. And (thank goodness) I was wearing a Cabelas hoodie instead of that preposterous bedazzled dress….

It happened all too quickly to really explain. All I know is, when my rusty green Mercury clanked and came to a deathly, sullen halt at a green light just far enough over the peak of a hill to be invisible to the lines of rush hour traffic behind me, I was hoping on a prayer that the two 18-wheelers who were riding on my bumper would be quick on the trigger. They were. Their brakes screeched and squealed behind me as they wove to a stop…. Just in time. Another line of traffic was rapidly cresting the hill directly behind me. The light was still green.

That’s when I decided to exit the car.

Standing in that weedy parking lot, waiting for the tow truck to arrive, watching the smoke seep from under the hood of my car and watching vehicle after vehicle zoom over the hill and frantically switch lanes or slam on the brakes to avoid hitting my dysfunctional car, I  couldn’t help but wonder, “Why, God? Why allow my trusty old tin can to give up the ghost now? Why do I, a weary, penniless Bible college student, need to deal with this just 20 stinkin’ minutes before our end-of-semester banquet is supposed to commence?

Ugh!!! This is terrible timing!”

Almost an hour later, driving back towards the Bible school campus on a high-backed leather seat beside the tow truck driver, my poor lifeless car clanking along on the trailer behind us, we somehow found ourselves talking about fate. And I remember saying, “It’s a good thing I have a skateboard, ‘cause I don’t live around here, and it might be my only way to get home tomorrow. But either way, I know God has a plan for this. If I could only see life through His eyes, I know I would never want to change a single circumstance of my life, no matter how hard. Everything happens for a reason.”

I’ve come to believe that it’s dangerous to make such bold statements. Somewhere in the future they usually become tested…

We rattled on into the campus parking lot and came to a halt directly under the windows of the music room where the entire student body was taking formal class pictures. I helped to unload the care while dodging puddles of tobacco juice with impressive style and ease and attempted to calm my friends, who were peering out of the windows with varying degrees of surprise, amusement, and concern at my untimely predicament.

I backed my car into a parking spot while my tow truck friend pushed… said thanks to him and waved goodbye… turned back towards my car just in time to see that it was still in neutral and was drifting speedily towards a large pine tree…. dashed to it and threw it in park literally two inches before it hit… grabbed my boots out of the back seat and laughed about the people who might think it strange to see my car parked half in the parking lot and half under a tree… darted up the back stairs of the dormitory… and stuffed myself in a very uncomfortable dress in time to enter the banquet hall only a few minutes late.

I was glad to sit down.

I called my father during a break in the festivities, and he, in his customary super-awesomeness, agreed to re-arrange his schedule in order to bring a trailer down to the campus the next day. Something bothered me, though. I had promised to give my friend a ride home early the next day. I hurried to find her and apologized that our plans would have to be cancelled because of all this mess. I suggested that she could hop home with one of the other girls who lived in my vicinity. Surprisingly, she said she’d rather hang around and wait for me. Just because she’s a gem.

At 2 pm the next day, I was waiting expectantly in the hallway with my bags packed. My phone rang. My father’s voice was on the other end. He sounded stressed.

“Hey, Kara, you know how we were supposed to be picking you up in thirty minutes? Well, that wont be happening now. A tire fell off my truck, and I’m stuck here on the shoulder of the highway until someone can come get me with a trailer.

….Yes, it was a tire I was driving on. Yes, at 68 miles per hour. I chased it down the highway on foot once I got the truck stopped. Whew……. I’m still tired. But anyhow, tell your friend that it’s gonna be at least 4 hours till we get there. I’m really sorry about all of this.”

Really? How often does a tire just randomly fall off? Creeps! All of this was just too ironic. But it got better…

Two hours later, I received another call. “Hey, hun? Just wanted to let you know that Art (my mechanic, and also my brother-in-law) just hit the road now. Turns out that the keys for his truck somehow ended up with me (my father was two hours away from Art at the time)… and yeah, every single thing that could possibly go wrong, did while he was trying to round up a truck and trailer to rescue us all. But he is FINALLY on his way, so hang in there! 4 more hours should do it.”

Seriously??!? MORE waiting? My impatience was beginning to show. All I wanted to do was to go home and sleep forever.

By this time, there were only three students left on campus, and the dormitory felt more like a dark, hollow tomb than the bubbling hub of life it had been just a day before. My friends and I decided to stop by a local radio ministry while we waited for our rescuers to arrive. We had just enough time to get a quick tour before the business closed, and thankfully, all of the staff were still on duty. Just as our tour ended and we were heading out the door, we heard a voice behind us, “Hey, you guys should stop in and meet Bob before you go. He just got off the phone.” To this day, I’m not exactly sure who Bob is and how the subject came up, but before we’d been in his office five minutes, he began telling us the animated story of fruitless search for missionaries to staff a Christian orphanage in Mexico. The current staff workers were being drastically overtaxed, and Bob was becoming overwhelmed because it was an extremely long process to simply train a new staff person in the language, much less the skills needed for the job.

My friend’s eyes started to sparkle, and she began asking question after question.

Bob was more than happy to provide information.

Before the hour was up she had completed an application and received an invitation to travel to Mexico with Bob and some other staff the next month. But maybe you don’t realize just how epic this was, both for Bob AND my friend.

You see, Bob had no applicants. But my friend had majored in evangelism and missions during her term at Bible school, and God had planted an insurmountable hunger for service in her young heart. Bob had a large set-back in hiring staff, because it took so long to train them in the language and customs. My friend was FROM Mexico, and had lived in the US, and so was extremely well-versed in the language and customs of both locations. Bob needed someone ASAP. But the Heavenly Father had brought my friend to just the place in her walk with Him where she could say, “Yes, Father, if this is your will, then I am ready.

What do you think? Was this meeting a shallow shot in the dark called ‘chance’? Or was it a wild, dangerous, spectacular rainbow of divine initiation? As my friends and I finally left the business, contact information and brochures in tow, there wasn’t a dry eye among us. We could feel the presence of the Lord in our midst, and it was as if He had audibly whispered,

“See? All of your car problems over the past two days were for a PURPOSE! I needed you to be right here, right now for a reason. This miracle that just took place for Bob and for your friend could not have happened any other way. Was it worth it? Was it worth all the hassle for my work to go forth, for harvesters to be added to my fields? Take this, not only as a symbol of my love for Bob and your friend, but as a symbol of my love for YOU. I do not allow hardship without a reason. And this time, I have chosen to reveal my reason. Remember this, child, and be at peace.”

Suddenly, nothing mattered anymore, except this moment… right here, right now. It didn’t matter that I’d had to call 911. It didn’t matter that I’d had to fork out a ridiculous amount of cash to the towing company. It didn’t matter that I’d almost missed the banquet.  It didn’t matter that my family ended up needing to drive almost 1,000 miles to pick me up (normally the round trip would have been 550). It didn’t matter that we had two broken-down vehicles. We all now saw these obstacles as tools. Tools for the kingdom. Tools of love. Symbols that my friend’s destiny mattered! That she was infinitely valuable!

And now, 5 months later, as she works at the orphanage and sometimes things get tough, I know it is her reason to go on.

Because one person’s road block is another person’s glory.

Our Father always has a plan. And it is something BEAUTIFUL.