Thursday, 24 May 2012

A Rescue Mission

Not long ago, Kevin and I were running at the Mona Reservoir, a large lake-like body of water, surrounded by mountains and lush vegetation — a touch of calm in the chaos of Kingston.  In our effort to “shape up” we run a few laps around the reservoir several times a week.  We usually go early — between five and six in the morning — to beat the Jamaican heat and get it out of the way.  (Let’s be honest, no matter how much of a runner you may be, it always feels good to check it off your list for the day!)

This particular morning, we’d been running just a few minutes when movement caught Kevin’s eye.  Stumbling across our path was a panic-stricken bird.  It was covered in thorns, and appeared to have flown into some sort of cocklebur bush.  The bird kept trying to walk, trying to fly and was unsuccessful at both.  Sheathed in thorns, it couldn’t take a step without falling.  This only made matters worse, as every fall further embedded the thorns in its little body.

Kevin and I are both fierce animal lovers.  Every house we live in comes with a stray cat, which we pseudo-adopt, feed, and introduce to the human world.  Living in Jamaica, we have lizards, spiders and roaches galore, but even in my fear I can’t kill them.  Instead of a destiny swirling down the toilet, most are captured and freed by my courageous husband (while I cheer on from the dining room tabletop). 

All that to say, when we saw this little bird’s dilemma, we both melted.  We followed it around a few minutes, trying to devise a rescue mission that wouldn’t involve missing fingers or transmission of the bird flu.  Every few minutes we would timidly snatch away a thorny branch, only to be snapped and squawked at.  We were beginning to feel like the situation was hopeless — that the bird was destined to be the afternoon snack of a badger or snake— when two more animal lovers came walking our way.  These folks were brave.  The man gently picked up the bird, the woman held his beak shut with two fingers, and Kevin and I laboriously picked out all the thorns.  It took at least half an hour, and as we worked the bird went from flailing and fighting to resting calmly in the man’s hands, as if he knew we were trying to help.  When the little bird was finally free, the man set him on the path, and we all watched like proud parents as he took a few steps and flew away. 

As we finished our morning run, I couldn’t help thinking how often we act like that little bird.  We are encased in thorns — the worries that overwhelm us, the burdens that crush us, the sins that entangle us, the lies that blind us.  We desperately try and escape.  We’re determined to figure a way out on our own, but the harder we try the more exhausted we become.  All the while, God is right there waiting, ready to pick us up and gently remove our thorns.  He wants to deliver us from a life of worry and fear.  He wants to teach us how to fly.  But so often we resist, driven by fear instead of by faith, relying on ourselves because it’s too terrifying to relinquish control.  If only we would trust in the goodness of our heavenly Father!  Yes, it might hurt a little.  The first thorn removed may cause a sting.  It might be an arduous and painstaking process, one that leaves us vulnerable and exposed.  But once we’re soaring free, we’ll realize it was worth it.  The Rescuer made us to fly.

Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31

Striving to soar,

Kevin & Cass

Monday, 7 May 2012

On NASCAR and Prayers

Downtown Kingston

Greetings and Happy May!  Hope flowers are abloom wherever you are, and that your heart is also blooming in love, joy and celebration of life!

I’d like to describe to you our experience of driving in Jamaica, as it’s a big part of our daily lives here.  I’m not quite sure how to start, as it seems there are no words to accurately express the pandemonium that ensues when we start the engine and hit the streets. 

I’ve decided the best way to convey the experience is to compare it to a video game: Every man for himself, all the odds against you, may the best craziest driver win.  There are a few loose rules.  Traffic lights and stop signs are options for creating order, but the majority of drivers see them as an inconvenience and waste of time.  Obstacles pop out at any given moment:  Bicyclists carrying shovels, bamboo stalks, and other random objects, stray dogs crossing the street on a whim, barefoot children chasing each other, goats, pushcarts and motorcycles are just a few of many hindrances you may encounter en route.  Public transportation exists in the form of large, sluggish buses that have a mind of their own and make frequent, sporadic stops.  If you get behind one of them the game is over for you.  Not only are you stuck for the indefinite future, but the fumes might kill you on the spot.  Drivers believe in using all lanes, regardless of the traffic flow to get to their destination fastest.  The pot holes are more like large lunar craters, and during rainy season you really need an ark in lieu of a car.  It’s a white knuckled, heart racing, close-your-eyes-until we get there experience.

Interestingly, Kevin THRIVES on the roads here.  A little known fact about Kevin is that he’s certain his life’s calling involves being a NASCAR driver.  He’s never actually been in a racecar, but he “feels it in his bones” that given the chance, he’d take NASCAR to new heights.  The Kingston streets only confirm his calling.  He navigates the chaos with the finesse of a feline and views every obstacle as a chance to channel his inner Jeff Gordon. 

Given my husband’s aspirations, it’s no surprise that when we first arrived in Kingston, I was certain we wouldn’t last more than a week without catastrophe.  Every morning when Kevin left for the office, I literally hit my knees in prayer, begging God to protect him and help him make it in one piece.  The situation was so desperate and so beyond my control that praying seemed the only option.

After a few months, I got used to Jamaican driving, and the threat didn’t seem so big.  We were getting along fine, and I was actually driving around town running errands (without having a panic attack).  As I became more comfortable, I started praying less.  I was kissing Kevin good-bye and starting my day, without giving a thought to asking God for protection.  So often comfort leads to complacency, and as the danger diminished, so did my prayers.

Last week I was driving to the golf course to pick Kevin up after an early morning round.  As I was driving, the Holy Spirit so convicted me of my self-reliance and lack of prayers.  I couldn’t think of the last time I had prayed for protection.  I thanked God for protecting us so far on our journey, asked forgiveness for not making prayer a priority, and prayed that He would keep me safe as I drove to get Kevin.  I picked Kevin up and we headed back to house.  As we were driving, out of nowhere a car pulled out in front of us, totally oblivious to our presence.  Because of our speed and the hill we were descending, there was no way to avoid an accident.  I slammed on the breaks and waited for the “crunch.”  I knew both cars were totaled, and my mind was running a million miles a minute, trying to process the hassle, the damage, and the number of probable broken bones.  It seemed to last forever…I kept waiting, and waiting and waiting for the collision.  But it never came.  Our car stopped inches short of the other vehicle.  I’m talking literal inches.  You couldn’t have fit a paper clip between the two bumpers.   

I can’t prove what happened that afternoon, but I believe in my heart God heard my prayer for safety, graced us with protection and miraculously stopped the collision.  In my mind, I see Him watching the scene unfold, reaching His mighty arm down to Shortwood Road, and stopping our car with the strength of His fingertip.  Then He gives us a gentle smile as we close our eyes in thanks, chuckling to Himself as we drive the rest of the way home sending hi fives to heaven.

So often we wonder if prayer really works, and so often we can’t see tangible results to confirm that it does.  But sometimes God gives us such vivid proof that it can’t be denied.  And those moments keep me praying.

“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” 
(Isaiah 59:1)

With Love,
Kevin & Cass