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I was surprised when my good friend and doubles tennis partner, Bill Johnson, said those words when we were lifeguards for a camp one summer. Then he paused before adding, “GOD changes things!”
The bigger questions include whether God even exists and if He does, whether He is the kind of God who has time, ability, and compassion enough to intervene in our personal lives and if so … what does that look like?
I flew back to KY to spend Christmas with my mom and brothers. The night before my flight I was analyzing my unusual apprehensive thoughts about my upcoming flight. Usually if people are concerned, it’s about the actual flying part. That is my least stressful part! My mom and dad met while both working for Delta Airlines so I learned how to fly before I learned how to walk! I have absolutely no fear of flying … it’s being in a 75 ton tube of metal 20,000 feet above the ground and NOT flying that would be more concerning to me! What I am more concerned about is even making the flight (my Pavlovian response from flying standby for 50 years) and that the 1st flight will not arrive too late to make the connecting flight.
I awakened the next morning with a message that my flight was going to be 30 minutes late. This was concerning since my connecting flight time was only 40 minutes in Dallas. I called for other options. I was told this was the last flight so if I missed it I would be spending the night in Dallas.
The plane actually took off 50 minutes late so I was resigned to the likely probability that I would spend the night in Dallas. My prayer life did improve … mainly the request to be content in whatever happened. As I was strategically planning how to maneuver up the aisle to deplane as quickly as possible, I might have also prayed to be able to RACE like Jesse Owens through the airport. As soon as the “unfasten your seatbelt” bell went off, I dashed quickly up the few rows to be at the end of the 1st class line. When they opened the plane door I had exactly 7 minutes to make it to my gate, assuming they did not close the boarding door or leave early. When we got to the gateway tunnel I was able to run past the 1st classers and emerge first into the terminal!
Unfortunately (of course), I had to go to a different terminal. As I ran up the escalator to the shuttle tram, with only 3 steps left to go, I heard the announcement for the tram departing to terminal B. I knew I could not make it before the doors closed, especially since I actually saw the doors closing … on a lady! Her husband had just stepped on but she hesitated. The doors softly hit her and then reopened. I saw my chance and sprinted toward the doors, literally jumping into the tram just as the doors were closing again. I heard the husband say to his wife, “See, that’s how you do that!”
Since I was the first off the tram, I ran down the empty escalator and sprinted from gate B29 down to gate B20 (my weekly tennis matches paid off)! I saw they were boarding the plane and was temporarily relieved until I saw that the plane was going to … St. Louis!?!? Since I could not breathe/talk at that point, I hoped they could read lips as I attempted to ask where the Cincinnati plane had gone to. They had switched gates to B16 so I took off running again. I barely made it to the end of the line just as they were finishing boarding the plane!
On the previous plane, I had been reading a new book similar to CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters about an uncle demon advising his nephew on the fine art of temptation. The book is called “The Wormwood File – Email from Hell.” I was struck by one of the lines when the demon is instructed to encourage the thought that “Prayer is something done by stupid people. Smart people are self-reliant.” I wrote a note to myself – “I can be dumb because I am ‘smart’ and don’t feel a need to rely on God at times.” As soon as I found out about the first delayed flight, my natural inclination was to calculate all the odds and come up with the best decision. I don’t want to say what airline this was but the lady I talked to was an American! I asked her advice and then called Kristen and asked her what she would do. On the way to the airport I was praying and it dawned on me I had not even asked the source of all wisdom what the best course of action would be. So I acknowledged this to God and humbly asked for HIS wisdom, since I read He is outside time and can see all possible future scenarios in one present moment.
Later, in the airport, I was reminded of the verse, “You have not because you ask not.” Now I am fully aware that God is not the Santa Claus of the Solar System or the Credit Card of the Cosmos or a Heavenly Bellhop or Genie in the sky. But I also know Philippians 4 encourages us not to worry about anything but to pray about everything (not so we get what we ask for but rather that “the peace of God will keep our hearts and minds …”). So I did pray in the airport, reminding God I would rather spend the night in Erlanger, KY than Dallas, TX … nevertheless, not my will but God’s be done.
I am also reminded at times like this that there are much more eternally significant prayers I should not neglect … so I also lift up prayers for the persecuted Christians, starving people around the world, etc. I was reading the monthly magazine I receive from Voice of the Martyrs and, fully aware of how spoiled most of us are here in the States, am humbly appreciative and overwhelmed by the fact that I am on a plane flying to spend time with family while many around the world are simply struggling to stay alive. Nevertheless, these were some of my prayerful thoughts and I would be remiss not to give God credit and glory for the fact that I am now typing this from Erlanger (not from hell)! By the way, the last line refers to the book “Email from Hell” and not to Dallas!
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