SKATING ON A POND WITH THE PLYMOUTH

He landed on the frozen surface of the pond.  How could the ice support the weight of a 3,019 pound station wagon?

How long does it take a 1953 grey Plymouth station wagon to break through the ice and sink to the murky bottom of a pond?  That fearful question engulfed our hearts as we filled the car with screams.  The wailing voices belonged to my two sisters, mother and myself.  The one not shrieking in fear was the madman at the wheel, my smirking father.

THE STATION WAGON ON THE POND

It was a cold winter afternoon and we were out on a family drive. We made a side trip to the family farm.  I am clueless how my dad persuaded Mother that he needed to drive down the lane behind barn. Daddy then proceeded to drive off the path, continued up and over the bank and landed on the frozen surface of the pond.  How could the ice support the weight of a 3,019 pound station wagon?

LAVERNE, GET OFF THE ICE!

My mother yelled at my father, “LaVerne, get off the ice!!!”  My sisters and I pictured the ice cracking and our car sinking into the frigid depths.  I was a little girl bundled into a bulky cumbersome snowsuit and not dressed for swimming through icy waters!  He must have braked the car at that point because I remember Mother, my sisters and I shoving open the car doors and running for our lives to the safety of the pond’s bank.

EASY TO DRIVE DOWN BUT NOT BACK UP

My father would normally have been celebrating his feat of reckless courage, however at that point he realized while it was easy to drive down the bank onto the ice, it was another matter to drive the car off the ice and up and over the bank of the pond.  The wheels of the heavy car struggled to gain traction.  After repeated tries, somehow Daddy managed to find enough momentum to drive off the pond. 

NOT SPOKEN OF AGAIN

Alongside his now traumatized family, my dad celebrated his bravery by building a fire on the pond’s bank.  We roasted hot dogs and drank hot chocolate and didn’t speak of it again.

I grew up in a household in which we were religious, but not trusting. Cared for physically, but not necessarily, emotionally.  There were a great many things never spoken of, never shared, and never given.  In other words, I never quite knew where I stood as a child, a daughter. 

I wish I had known where to find the kind of love my heart longed for. I needed Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Or better yet: Psalm 121: I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

These are promises needed when the waters run cold and deep and the shore seems so very far away.

OUT OF THE MOUTH OF A 5TH GRADER

“We don’t know.” What we do know is this: We need to trust God no matter what.

It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving and everything was going well with my class of 4th and 5th graders. They were beginning to understand the importance of the resurrection and how vital it was to the Gospel. A man (the God-Man) died on the cross and within three days He was walking around, talking to everyone, even to the skeptics (sorry Thomas!)

“I AM THANKFUL I NO LONGER HAVE CANCER”

It was at that point that I decided to give everyone a chance to say what they were thankful for., To avoid repetition and to get the class thinking a little deeper, I instituted a rule: Nobody could repeat what someone else said! Uh oh! They were a little nervous, but it worked. We went around the room, and everyone said something.  (Some variations on the family theme were still repeated, but that’s okay!) About halfway through we came to a young girl and what she was thankful for caught me completely off guard. She quietly spoke words that I wasn’t ready to hear: “I am thankful that I no longer have cancer.”

SOMETIMES OUR DREAMS TAKE US FAR, FAR WAY!

Every child who shared what they were thankful for was sincere in what they said, but to hear those words out of the mouth of a 5th grader made me think of Isaiah 55:8: For my thoughts, are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, declares the Lord. No kidding! We dream, we think, and we pray. However, in the end, if we truly want to obey Jesus Christ, we will follow His lead. Sometimes it takes us just where we want to go. Other times, it takes us far, far, away!

BUT GOD THOUGHT DIFFERENTLY

For example, I didn’t always want to be a preacher. During my High School year, I had a love for drawing. I was always sketching something, whether I was supposed to or not. (We’ll save that for another ReCharge!) My plan was to become a graphic artist and I would attend Moore College of Art in Philadelphia. A lot had transpired that senior year. I was leading a local boys club, I was teaching Bible Studies, and I got to speak at my church. It was there that a gentleman, who I had a great deal of respect for, came up to me and said “Bill, you’re going to become a preacher.”  I thought to myself, “No I’m not, I am going to become a graphic artist.” But God thought differently. And so, I began to pursue the pastorate.

Why does God allow some things to happen to us that are so good and encouraging to our souls and at other times it seems like He leaves us seemingly alone; unable to defend ourselves?  To answer that question, I would need a few more ReCharges or you could go Pastor Addison’s Thanksgiving sermon, where he did a great job in explaining this whole dilemma. The answer to the question is very simple: “We don’t know.” What we do know is this: We need to trust God no matter what. We need to trust Him when we see the answer and when we don’t. We need to trust him when we survive cancer, as well as when we have just been diagnosed with it. Romans 8:28 is used often but rarely believed. And we know that all things work for the good to those who love God.   Remember, you can trust what the Bible says, you can trust what the Spirit says, and finally, you can trust the God who loved you so much, He was willing to die for you! It took a 5th-grader’s simple thanks to remind me of that.

GIVING GOD YOUR DREAMS

It took a long time for me to be able to look at anything to do with babies without my heart going to a dark place.  How could I trust God? 

It was my first miscarriage.  We had been helping out at a summer camp and were hours away from home.  I ended up losing our baby in a strange hospital without any friends or family (other than Bill). The wounds were raw.  It took a long time for me to be able to look at anything to do with babies without my heart going to a dark place.  How could I trust God?  We were faithful followers of Jesus. How could this be part of God’s plan? It was not my dream.

THEY WERE BOTH VERY OLD

Maybe this is also what Zechariah and Elizabeth wondered: how could they trust God?  When we are introduced to them in Luke 1:5-25: they were both very old. In other words, one foot in the grave.  Over the years how many births of friends and neighbors had they repeatedly participated in celebrating? Zech and Elizabeth would then return to their own home where their cradle just gathered dust, season after season. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive. When was the day they finally gave their unused cradle to another family? Or did they chop it up for firewood?  I think I may have done the latter.  It is hard to let go of dreams.

GOD WAS HEARING EVERYONE ELSE’S PRAYERS

It may have seemed God was hearing everyone else’s prayers except the prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Yet they chose to trust God and maintain a spiritual life that was: righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.  They were not only outwardly good, but decided to continue to follow God with all their hearts. In spiritual terms, this is the season where the battle is either won or lost.  The victory is when genuine faith becomes a conscious decision to continue to cling to God, regardless of the circumstances. Zech and Elizabeth still clung to the goodness of God, whether or not their cradle was filled.

It is understandable that Zechariah had a problem comprehending the message from the angel. At his age, it’s a wonder he didn’t have a heart attack when the angel appeared to him with the message: God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. At the back of Zech’s mind, maybe he was saying, “Yeah, sure, it’s about time…”

THE TWILIGHT OF THEIR LIVES

In the twilight of their lives, Zechariah and Elizabeth were going to experience great joy and gladness.  This long-awaited baby would be everything they had ever prayed for: filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.  Their son John’s mission would be the ultimate answer to the prayer that any believing parents ask for their children. John would not only give them great joy and gladness, but he would also be a godly man, great in the eyes of God, and he would prepare the hearts of his fellow countrymen for the coming of the Messiah.  What more could a parent ask for?

GOD HAD NEVER FORGOTTEN

God had never forgotten the prayer of Zechariah and Elizabeth. He felt their grief all those years, especially when the prayers of others were answered. He heard their laments. Psalm 5:1-3: Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help,  my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;   in the morning I lay my requests before you    and wait expectantly. It may have seemed that God’s timing was off regarding Zech and Elizabeth, but it fit perfectly into God’s perfect calendar for humanity.  God was with them even during the darkest times.  Our Father understands all about empty cradles. Are you waiting for the God Who can be trusted? He may not answer in the way you are expecting, but He is the God Who is good. How about giving Him your dreams?

For further encouragement, listen to the story of Loryn Smith