Always There

Always ThereAs a military family, we were very blessed to travel quite a bit. Sometimes we took a literal vacation to an area that was new to explore. Often our journeys were long car rides for the purpose of visiting extended family and friends. Moves to other locations also gave us the ability to see and enjoy places new to us.

The year before our final military retirement move, we traveled all the way out to the great state of Colorado to visit two families with whom we had become friends on separate tours in Germany. This was the first time we crossed so many state lines and spent countless days in one vehicle together. We were fortunate to own a conversion van that had quite a luxurious interior and enough space to keep all occupants at least an arm’s length apart and everyone comfortable during three long days across the country.

Among the many interesting places we passed through was St. Louis, Missouri. We did get a chance to see the mighty Mississippi up close and personal and even eat at a floating fast food restaurant. (Who would want to miss that when there are four kids in tow?) But the most memorable aspect was the famous St. Louis Arch, known as “The Gateway to the West.” We stopped to take in its imposing design. We enjoyed the surrounding park, visited the underground museum and wrenched our necks to stare up at the tall gleaming legs of the structure.
St Louis Arch

St Louis Arch

Our time at the park did not serve to create the best memory, however. It was our time in the van after our visit that continues to bring a smile to our lips. My older son had convinced my younger son that the arch was following us. As one travels in the area, that’s exactly what the arch seems to do. It is always visible, sometimes on one side of the vehicle, sometimes on the other. My second son was absolutely amazed at the arch’s ability to “move” and be right there with us. It probably took a couple years before he realized that it is only perspective and perception that cause this experience. I have the chance often to pass through that area, and I laugh every time I think back to that trip and the “roving arch.”

Something that is absolutely true and utterly amazing is the fact that God is always with us. It’s not just our perception that makes it so. In His Word He assures His followers, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). “Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Psalm 139:5-8 states, “You hem me in – behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.” There is no doubt that He accompanies us on our entire life’s journey. But, He also cares for us and loves us deeply so that His presence is not spent passively just watching us go by; He wields His power, extends His grace, offers His forgiveness, and brings us His redemption that we might travel this life under His care, blessed to be heading toward His heavenly home.
The CrossEach time I travel through St. Louis, the arch is eventually left behind. Each day that I travel through life, my God is with me always. He is The Gateway to Eternal Life, and it is a privilege and blessing to daily journey with Him.

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True Celebration

The ground was white and the air felt cool and clean. It was the eve of the holiday, and we pulled into our hotel parking lot, just missing the storm that brought the frosty blanket and some rather large glittering heaps to this little municipality. What a sight! We navigated through with a hotel cart to bring our suitcases from the truck to our room. We were able to get to a nice restaurant for dinner, and when we returned to the hotel I was thrilled to find that a cable channel was playing one of my favorite holiday movies, “The Preacher’s Wife.” Ah, such a festive setting…
That is, if it were Christmas. I neglected to say that this was July 3rd; the next day we would be celebrating Independence Day in the western part of Texas. If I remember correctly, that’s the holiday with hot dogs, waving red, white and blue flags, and fireworks, not white ground cover and a Yuletide classic. We were spending the night in a small city in New Mexico so we could get to our destination on the fourth in a timely manner. There had been quite a storm that brought hail from the size of peas to the size of golf balls, which was definitely distinguished from snow upon closer examination. It was so bad in one nearby city they actually had to bring out their plows! The trees had taken quite a beating; tattered leaves were everywhere. Because this was, after all, southwestern USA in July, some of the hail was melting fairly rapidly, and the parking lot started to look like a pond with the leaves filling in as lily pads. I’m not sure how or why someone decided to air Christmas entertainment for the July 4th holiday (Christmas in July?), but with the untimely weather, it completed what will undoubtedly be for us a very funny and memorable moment.
It is only knowledge and truth that can spare people from deception. In my case, I was fully aware that we were traveling in early July, not late December; therefore it wasn’t Christmas Eve, an easy call. But, can circumstances fool individuals? Of course they can. We watch the stock market rise and are led to believe that all is fine because we feel financially stable. We see shows on television and movies at the theater that portray everything but a man and wife in a committed marriage as normal and healthy, and we buy into the political correctness of the day. We hear about the latest, greatest beauty secret and take advantage of the proposed deal just to feel younger, prettier, more feminine, more masculine or more popular. This may not always be the case, but we can be duped into believing something that at its best is a lie, and at its worst can be destructive if we don’t carefully consider the truth and validity of a matter.
How can we possess such truth and knowledge? The Word of God contains everything we need to discern the situations around us. It is “a lamp to [our] feet and a light to [our] path” (Psalm 119:105). As we look at each circumstance we encounter through the illumination of the Word, we can and will be able to separate fact from fiction, God’s truth from the enemy’s deception. It doesn’t mean that we will never struggle with a decision or automatically be aware of dishonesty. But, as we continue to read and study the Bible and pray for wisdom, God will lead us to evaluate situations correctly, and it will become easier to see things from His point of view. Deception will give way to clarity, clarity to conviction and conviction to correct action.
Now, that’s something to celebrate, no matter the holiday. Bring out the sparklers and pass the eggnog… Happy 4th and Feliz Navidad!
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