Have you ever wondered if your GPS “lady” hates you? I have. I always suspected she did, but now I’ve confirmed it. She’s out to get me. No, I’m not being paranoid. Just stating the obvious.
On my pilgrimage in recent days, I was traveling south of Knoxville, Tn., to Georgia. I routed on the GPS the parameters of where I was going (actually, atop the highest mountain in Georgia) to see a college friend who retired there.
The GPS routed me immediately off I-75 onto the back roads and into back woods of North Carolina. And part of that route: Route 129, also known as “The Tail of the Dragon.” 318 turns in 11 miles. The curviest pavement in America. A place where bikers go to prove their mettle and impress their womenfolk and friends. A place where at least one person is killed each year and accidents are likely. A place where (as I learned at the completion and my entry into North Carolina) there is a monument called, “The Tree of Shame,” with hanging car and motorcycle parts for those who didn’t successfully complete the drive.
I didn’t know I was on the Tail of the Dragon. The GPS lady just forgot to mention that. She didn’t offer a safer, alternate route. She should have said, “If you’re feeling suicidal, here’s the route for you.” I only realized where I was when I came to the bottom.
When I arrived at the peak of the Tail, turned a corner and two photographers were stationed there, standing in the middle of the road, to take what I had begun to think were “the last pictures of this person ever seen alive” to help your next of kin identify you. I didn’t buy one, (one of the companies had a tent called “Killboy”) but I’m sure it would have shown a wide-eyed, white-knuckled guy driving an SUV where only sports cars and motorcycles dare to tread.
But, as you might conclude from this post, I did survive. And I learned something. Sometimes we find ourselves on “the dragon’s tail” and we don’t realize it… for a while.
Life throws twists and turns our way that we never saw coming. A hurricane blows our way. A child gets arrested or expelled from school. A spouse leaves. Cancer takes a loved one.
I drove the tail, mostly on four wheels, and tried to hang on and enjoy the ride. Hard to do when a curved road on the edge of a mountain with NO guard rails is where you are at the moment. But that’s life, isn’t it?
Some of you are on “the Tail of the Dragon” today. Not by choice. You didn’t see the curves coming. Fear meets you around every twist and turn. Uncertainty about your future looms.
I heard someone say once that fear is a condition, but trust is a volition. The Psalmist said “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” (Psalm 56:3). Fear is a condition, sometimes caused by the curves we are thrown in life. But trust is a choice. An act of the will. When we trust, we can find peace and calm even when the winds blow…
…and the “tail of the dragon” is the road you’re passing through.
It seems in Florida we are always dodging one storm or getting over another. That’s just the trade-off for living in paradise… right? But there’s nothing fun about a storm, even for those who “whistle through the graveyard” by planning hurricane parties while others flee in fear.
A storm the size of the one spinning to our southeast in the Atlantic and heading toward us is a game-changer. It is already altering lives in the islands to our south, and our family has already been struck down by this event. We pray for our “kinfolk” in Haiti, Cuba, and the other Caribbean islands in the path of Hurricane Irma.
Storms remind us of some things with great clarity:
There’s something… or someONE out there bigger than us. They have a way of making us feel very small and very out of control. This storm has a sort of twisted “beauty” to it in its perfectly formed eye wall. The views from space and even within the storm itself are stunning… and terrifying.
There’s something terribly wrong with our world… sin has wreaked its havoc on humanity but also on nature. There was no day in the creation account where God created hurricanes. This is nature gone wrong… horribly so. “All creation groans…” we are told in Romans. And this is one dimension of that groaning.
There’s someone who IS bigger than the storm… whether this one or one that you may be confronting personally in your life. The same One who created water and waves can bring peace… even in the midst of the storm.
So in the coming days and hours, let’s learn a lesson from Simon Peter. As long as our eyes are on the storm… we’re sunk. But when our eyes are fixed on Jesus, even as the storm howls…
… we will know perfect peace!
On my spiritual pilgrimage, I took an unplanned and unexpected detour. It landed me “on” Noah’s Ark; an 8,000-ton, 10-story tall, visual aid and argument for the Bible’s description of the worldwide, devastating flood in Genesis. One man in all the world of that day existed who was pleasing to the Lord. The rest of the earth was lost in the death throes of wickedness and violence and sin. God wiped it all out with water… but He preserved Noah and his family from judgement. (Couldn’t help but think a lot about Houston…!)
My brother and sister-in-law suggested we visit the replica, located in Williamstown, Ky. So we drove for three hours and found ourselves thousands of years in the past. As we walked through nearly a mile of displays, each an argument weaving science and Scripture, I was stunningly reminded again of the faithful Father we serve and His willingness to keep His promises. Nobody does it better. Every word He promises will be kept. Every one… from the greatest to the smallest. Jesus said not one word will fail to be accomplished.
Noah’s ark serves as a “visual aid” to help us see how far God will go to keep His promises and His Word. Daniel said, “You always keep your covenant and fulfill your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands.” (Dan 9:4 NLT) God is the first and greatest “promise keeper.”
I know His promises kept me afloat in these last months of Pam’s illness and death. And I am still clinging to them for my stability now and for the days ahead. Not one will fail. If you are adrift, hold fast to those promises. I promise they will keep you afloat.
As we drove late yesterday into a partly-cloudy, twilight, Kentucky evening, the sun emerged for one last appearance. And when it did, something else emerged that only God could do… and special effects could not reproduce: In the sky overhead…