I keep hearing on the radio; "Christmas is not a joyful time for many people, for many it is a time of sorrow or difficulty."
I can relate to that. Christmas every year is a challenge in some way. The holidays bring to mind memories of someone that we once loved who is no longer in our lives, or possibilities that never came to fruition and broke our hearts. I have friends who are facing the death of a loved one, the terrifying illness of a child, life without a job and no hope of one in sight, broken relationships that tear at the heart and steal our joy; and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
All of these painful things can lead us to our knees to cry out to the One who said that He came that we might have life, and might have it more abundantly. He came to offer us true hope in a broken world.
He came to a young, unmarried girl, who faced hardship at every turn, and ultimately the death of her young (33 yr. old) son. Her first response was one of total submission to the will of her heavenly Father, no matter what difficulty it brought to her life. "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said."
How could she respond with such abandon? Sure, she was to be the mother to the promised, long awaited, and anticipated Messiah, but it was to come with unspeakable difficulty!
Being an instrument for God's use requires that I give up my own plan and agenda, and allow God to replace it with His. God never forces Himself or His will on us. He invites us to be part of His big, beautiful story. A story often full of pain on this earth, but with an eternal reward that will make every moment of suffering worth it all! Will I choose obedience that leads to joy? Will I have eternity in view? Mary did.
Merry Christmas every one!
"Well, Muslims and other people believe in their god as strongly as we believe in God. How do we know that Jesus really is who He said he is?"
We had just been talking about the anti-christ. Who is he? Is he alive today? Where will he come from? How many people will be fooled into thinking he is the long awaited messiah/savior/redeemer that is so desperately needed in our broken world? How will he deceive them?
"Well, the first question you want to answer is: Is the Bible true?" I said. "Think about it; 66 book written by 40 different men over a period of 2,000 years. Yet it is historically accurate, scientifically accurate, and contains many prophecies that were fortold and have been fulfilled since it was written."
This is a conversation I would expect to have with a college or high school student. Someone wondering if what they had been taught in church or at home was true. Every healthy thinking person goes through a period of questioning their beliefs, and they should. It would be a person of weak faith indeed that blindly accepts whatever they have been told. True Truth can stand up to questioning. The answers are available for those who seek God with a sincere heart.
It wasn't a college or high school student. It was my nine year old daughter.
It was a wake up call to me that she already has thought processes that I need to continue to challenge and ground. Perhaps at a deeper level than I anticipated. She needs to be given truth with reason and taught the "why" behind her faith. And it is my responsibility to teach her this, and provide the resources she needs to build a faith of her own.
The spiritual battle is vivid and raging all around. It is a vying for her mind, heart and soul. It begins in the mind, and I intend to put on my armor and fight with everything I have for her and each of my precious children. Through prayer and the sword of the Spirit; the Word of God. Another way I am doing that is ordering this book; "Who is God, and Can I Really Know Him?" Why we believe what we believe. I have a friend who is reading it to her 7 & 9 year old, so I know it is something she will be able to understand, and from a source I trust for worldview resources.
I can't wait to get it and begin reading it together!
This is a VERY LONG post and I apologize for its length, but I wanted to share the entire experience, start to finish. Advice at the end.
Ecclesiastes 8:15 “So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.”
As I sit here safely at my computer, it’s hard to imagine that less than 24 hours ago I was hurtling through the air at 120 mph. It was a perfect, sunny day to go skydiving!
I just got off the phone with my mother, telling her that I went. I didn’t want her to worry beforehand, but to be able to tell I was alive afterwards. She told me thank you for doing it that way!
How It Started
It was several months ago that I was talking with my friends about going. “Let’s do it!” the adventurous one said. The other said we were nuts to even think about it. She was right! Actuaries sitting in offices with calculators advise insurance companies not to insure such risk-takers because of the risks involved in the sport. I told them I would go if it was OK with Greg. I didn’t consider it an imminent possibility, because of cost, and I didn’t know there was a place you could do it in NC.
So, I was a little surprised, when on May 4th, she sent me a message on facebook saying she had booked the date for May 22nd and they needed to know how many were jumping by the next day for the non-refundable deposit. Well, I said I needed to talk with Greg to make sure it was alright with him. We had talked about it, but contemplation is a lot different than commitment. Then, he walked in the room. I told him what she was doing and we started talking about whether I should go. My stomach had turned upside down. It’s easy to say “I want to do that some day.” I think we’d all admit our bucket lists are pretty long. I love dreaming, and thinking about doing something can be a lot of fun too! Now that it was staring me in the face, I didn’t have that dreamy mentality anymore. I’m not a REAL adrenaline junkie.
“It’s a lot of money” I said. “I don’t know if I feel right about spending it on that” He smiled. We didn’t have to talk about the obvious risk and the possibility of our children growing up motherless. “I don’t know!” I said. I got up and walked into the bathroom to take my makeup off. He sat down at the desk. A couple minutes later he got up and came into the bathroom. “There’s something for you at the computer” he said. I walked over. I almost didn’t have to look. He had typed “I’m in” and sent the message to my friend.
18 days until I would jump out of a perfectly good airplane! That night I couldn’t get to sleep for a long time. I was scared to death! I’m not emotionally expressive. I tend to keep my emotions under a carefully calm exterior. I finally decided I wasn’t going to live in fear the next few weeks. I do believe in the sovereignty of God, and that our days are numbered. I also know our choices affect our future tremendously. God gave us a mind to reason with. I believe strongly that I should carefully consider and usually follow the direction of those in authority in my life. If it had not been OK with Greg, I would not do it, but he had given me the green light.
I only told a few people about what I planned to do. I didn’t want to cause undue and unnecessary anxiety that could be avoided by waiting ‘til after the jump to tell them. The responses I got were as varied as the people. My pastor’s wife, who is also a good friend, asked me why I was doing it. I didn’t have a really good answer. I said I wasn’t afraid of very many things, but I was honest about my fears. She wisely advised me to only do it if I really wanted to, and not to fall for the psychological gibberish of doing something foolish just to “Overcome your fears.” Later I was talking to her and my pastor. He wants to jump one day. She would never do so. “Is it not tempting God to jump out of a plane?” she said. I had asked myself the same question. He and I said the same thing simultaneously. “It would be tempting God if you were to jump without a parachute!” We all laughed.
I don’t blame anyone for choosing not to do this. One of my friends told me I was being irresponsible to do it. She was right. It is irresponsible, but neither will I live my life and make choices based on my fears of “What could happen.”To some people, this wouldn’t be fun at all. Honestly, the excitement and fear were in a race, and often neck and neck. I often asked myself during the days before “What am I doing?”
What My Kids Said
When I first told my 9 year old daughter Jessica what I was going to do, she said: “Lucky! I want to do it!” Then I told her what the risks were. After that she said “Mom! Why are you dong that!?” I explained to her that our lives are in God’s hands, and if it is our time to die, we will. I said “You’re sitting here in our living room and you think you are safe, but do you want me to explain to you all the ways you could die just sitting here?” Now before you try to tell me that that was a PG13 conversation let me tell you that she said “No” and I didn’t. But I wanted to let her know that life is full of risk every day. Our part is not to live in fear of what might happen, but to trust that God will never leave or forsake us no matter WHAT happens.
I showed my 7 year old son Joshua the web site for Carolina Skydiving and asked If he wanted to do it. He said “No” and I asked how he would feel if I did it. He said “If you want to, you can.”
I didn’t tell my 3 year old daughter Grace that I was going ‘til we went. “Mommy’s going to jump out of an airplane!” - She was cool with that.
I had my self all psyched up and ready to do it on May 22nd. It was an overcast, drizzly day, and we kept checking the weather for Jonesville, after a morning of uncertainty, my friend called at noon to check for our 2 O-clock jump and sure enough…aviation said “No flying today.” We had to re-schedule for the following Saturday.
Have you been there? Something you want to do and have behind you; delayed. You were mentally prepared, and ready, but it didn’t happen. Waiting can be agonizing. We did end up having a very nice quality family day though. Sometimes, when things don’t happen on our time, it’s because God has something additional he wants to give us. That day with my family was a sweet gift.
Saturday, May 29th, 2010 – The day I would do something that I had never done before. A couple days before, I wrote notes to Greg and to my kids with the title “If I Should Die” – though I didn’t plan to, I knew it was a possibility, and I didn’t want to leave them without any final words of love and encouragement they could read again and again. The contents were of course individual expressions of my love, but also to look at everything in life in light of eternity. This life is truly a blink of an eye compared to eternity and God desires that we enjoy it and live into the purpose He designed us for while here on earth. I didn’t tell Greg, but a few minutes before we left, I sent him a facebook message that he would get later telling him where they were.
On the drive there, Greg said “I sure am gonna miss you!” I laughed “Well, I’m not gonna to miss you! I’m going to be with Eva (My baby that was stillborn at 8 months) and Jesus. I’ll be looking forward to you getting there, but I’m not going to miss you!” It’s good now and then, to consider the imminence of death for all of us, a reminder to live in a way that will leave little room for regret with those we love.
We arrived, and I began to fill out the waiver forms with my other two friends that were jumping. There are literally about 30 places you have to initial to show that you are aware of all the ways you could die, and that no one but you is responsible for taking this very dangerous risk. The air was lightened by the video waiver from the equipment company. A very austere man comes on, with a flat, stringy beard about 3 feet long. He tells you that though they do the best they can, there are no perfect airplanes, or parachutes, or instructors. And you COULD DIE.It was about then that Greg asked the receptionist "How far in advance do you have to book a jump?" "Well," she said "If you want to, you could do it today." This is something he's wanted to do for about 20 years. So he began to fill out the paperwork too. "You can still go before me" he said, with a beaming smile.
We got our training. We learned that the most important thing to remember was to arch our backs when we jumped, so the center of gravity would cause us to fall belly first to earth and the parachute would be more likely to deploy cleanly. Then the friend who was going first got suited up. She went up and made her jump. They landed smoothly and she walked back with a glowing report. I was already getting suited up. “I would take off my rings” she said. “It felt like everything, even your shoes were going to come off up there.”
During the 30 second pre-flight interview, Reid, the videographer asked “Is there anything you want to say to anyone?” Wow; possible last words? I said I loved my family and friends and that we needed to be ready for eternity at all times.
I have a tendency to be a bit claustrophobic. The plane ride up was a little trying for me. I have learned to reason and breathe my way through those situations though. There were 6 people in a tiny space tightly bunched together. I sat between Andy, my tandem instructor and Reid, the photographer (we had decided to do pictures and video). Two single jumpers (a man and women in their 50s) sat between us and the tiny doorway.) My seat belt was a ragged belt that I strapped around one of the straps on my harness. Reid, the photographer closed his eyes and almost slept during the flight to 10,000 feet. This was his 7th jump of the day. I looked out the window. I love flying in small planes. The day was stunningly gorgeous; blue skies with fluffy clouds. ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this!’ I thought. There was plenty of time to think on that flight up. I had no thoughts of turning back though. I was ready to jump. I sat back between my feet to get strapped to my tandem instructor. The pilot gave the signal, and the couple by the door opened it, and jumped out one at a time. The blast of air at that altitude was cold compared to the upper 80s at ground level. Reid got out onto the wheel well and held on until Andy put his right foot out and told me to put mine in front of it. “Ready. Set. Arch!” We all jumped at about the same time. I struggled to get my left leg past the door frame, but somehow jumped out with him. Amazingly, with no chute control, Reid was able to free fall right in front of us, facing us, and photograph and video tape us with the cameras strapped to his head.
What Was it Like?
Free-falling at 120 miles per hour for about 40-60 seconds was quite an experience. The thing I noticed most was that my mouth immediately became dry. It was an adrenaline rush, of course. I wasn’t afraid. I didn’t have time to think ‘What if the chute malfunctions?’ You could feel the skin on your face rippling with the force of the fall! Pictures later revealed that the skin on my arms and legs was rippling in the same way. It was a freaky, alien-like effect. The fall lasted long enough to enjoy, but the force of the slowing when he opened the chute was sudden, and the straps around my legs pressed into them with the force. It was then that I noticed the ache in my left calf. I had somehow scraped it while exiting from the airplane. I saw the photographer shoot like a rocket toward earth and was terrified for him that his chute wasn’t deploying quickly enough. I asked Andy about it and he said he just deploys it later so he can get there sooner to get shots of the landing.
Then, the floating; a surreal, and dreamy drifting slowly toward the earth. The canopy and canvas that you see while ascending or descending in an airplane, but with nothing in between. It was beautiful. At first, I couldn’t see where we were to land, and was very grateful for the experience and knowledge of my tandem instructor. It was peaceful and magnificent! I never felt unsafe. He let me hold the straps below his hands and pulled down on one side, so we would spin around sort of like a roller coaster. That was fun!
The landing was the thing I was most concerned about. I had heard the impact was as strong as jumping off of a roof, but with tandem jumps, you pull up your legs with your hands under your knees and land on your backsides. My landing was absolutely fine for me. The brakes on the parachute when he pulled both sides down slowed us to a very smooth landing.
My adventurous friend who had gotten it all started went third. Then Greg jumped last. Every one of us loved it!
Should You Do It?
One of my friends did bruise her back side on landing. The other said it’s an experience everyone should have at least once in their lives. I think that if you want to do it, research it and decide for yourself. I loved it and wouldn’t trade it. The girl who worked there said my calf scrape was a badge of courage. Some people think it is brave, some people think it’s crazy. I agree with both. I would do it again.
Advice on Jumping out of an Airplane
1. Be sure you are ready to meet your Maker (Look here to learn how to be ready).
2. Remove your jewelry and anything else that may be affected by 120 mph wind force.
3. Wear loose, long pants or a jumpsuit. It was a hot day and even with my bruise I don’t regret wearing shorts because of the ride up in the hot, tightly packed little plane. But if I did it again, I would choose a cooler day and wear long pants.
4. Don’t pull your legs up TOO far when you land. (This is probably what caused the bruising on my friend’s backside.)
5. Don’t open your mouth too wide when you first jump. It will take your breath away. Be prepared for a very dry mouth.
6. Even though it costs a good bit extra, save up for pictures and/or video for your first jump. There will never be another first. Don’t forget to smile!
7. Have fun!
Is there someone in your life who has spent a lot of time in prayer for your spiritual life? If so, what a great treasure! There is a such a man I know. His name is Finley Hunter. He and his wife Marty were friends with my family when I was a child. Though I haven't seen him for years, he is one of the friendliest men I know. He would talk with everyone he came in contact with about Jesus and how a relationship with Him could change their lives. People who met him fell in love with him. He had a warm, engaging manner and made you feel comfortable at once. He prayed for my family every day, and to me that is one of the greatest gifts I have received from another human; someone interceding on my behalf before God! I am grateful for this faithful servant of God. This is a picture of him with his grandson Craig and 3 great-grandsons.
How lovely are the faces of the men who talk with God- Lit with an inner sureness of the path their feet have trod; How gentle is the manner of a man who walks with Him! No strength can overcome him, and no cloud his courage dim. Keen are the hands and feet-ah yes-of those who wait His will, And clear as crystal mirrors, are the hearts His love can fill. Some lives are drear from doubt and fear while others merely plod; But lovely faces mark the men who walk and talk with God (I don't know who wrote this poem)