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The Spur

I closed my eyes as the music swelled around me. The Lotu - the national church in Papua New Guinea - was packed that morning. The people were on their feet, singing praises to God. I loved to watch them, but that morning I closed my eyes as the presence of God was evident. Then I felt a sudden warmth on my face. It startled me for a moment, as the unexpected parting of a cloud can be a surprise. I thought someone must have opened a louvered window high on the wall, allowing the bright tropical sun to beam down on us. It wasn't until I opened my eyes at the end of the song that I realized there were no windows, no louvers to open. There was no beam of sunlight pouring in. But I knew I had felt the touch of warmth on my face, the delight of the sun, the delight of the Son. The surprise of that morning stayed with me for a long time.

{mosimage}The day was bright and sunny with just a touch of crispness to it. It was the kind of morning that should have lifted my spirits but as I gazed out the window, my thoughts were far away and all gloomy. I sighed and tried to prepare for the day ahead. I knew it wasn't going to be an easy one. I glanced at the calendar. The words, "Good Friday" made me sigh again. There would be a church service in a couple of hours, then the funeral for a friend immediately afterward. As I got ready I prayed that the Lord would help me get through it all.

{mosimage}Some time ago I was corresponding with a few women from the U.S. We were on an e-mail listserve together, the kind where all our messages were seen by the whole group. Two of the women were military wives. One, a woman in Oklahoma, sent a message to the other in New York. It was just one line, but it shocked me. She asked ? "Is your husband at war?" Suddenly the reality of the Iraq war hit me, especially when the woman from New York sent back one word, "Yes."

{mosimage}"What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." (James 4:14b)

I don't know about you, but when I read that verse, I thought, how true and how depressing! None of us wants to think our lives are of no consequence. None of us wants to believe our lives are short. We all want to leave some kind of mark on the world and we all want to live forever. But we all know that the reality is much different from what we want.

A friend once told me about being hired by the government to study the bears in a certain area. He and another man set up a camp in the midst of known bear territory and began the work. They had been watching a family of bears for some time, recording their movements and eating habits. One morning they were observing a large male fishing in a river. They recorded their data and slowly backed away. When they thought they were a safe distance they stood up and turned toward their camp. My friend had his head down, fiddling with his camera case when suddenly he heard his co-worker call his name in a rather urgent tone. There, only a few feet away, was a large female. Her two cubs were romping a few paces away, between the men and the mother. The female had not seen them yet and they managed to back away quickly before she did. My friend said it took them a while before they stopped shaking. They new there was one primary rule in their work ? a rule they could not break ? "Don't mess with Mama." Mother bears are notoriously protective. Their first instinct is to protect their young. Those two men knew they had escaped a potentially deadly situation.

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