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I’m writing this on an 8 1/2 hour flight, on the way to a working vacation. My lovely bride of nearly 35 years, Laura, is sitting next to me, excited about the food that’s coming around.

The outside temperature at our current altitude of 36,000 feet is -62 degrees fahrenheit. We’re traveling at 556 miles per hour, with a little over 3,300 miles to our destination.

We’re sitting in front of two Servicemen who are swapping stories about their time in the armed forces.

I’ll admit I’m listening in, as 30 years ago I had a dream to go full-time in the military. Alas, twas not to be, but how can you not admire those who put their lives on the line for total strangers?

That’s a blog for another time.

Since we still have over 6 1/2 hours to go, I decide to watch a couple three-hour movies, to pass the time. After spending several minutes looking, I choose AVATAR and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.

“Ryan” first, I decide, but wasn’t prepared for my emotional reaction to the human sacrifice splattered all over the screen.

Funny thing is I’ve seen this movie a dozen times. I’m getting to the point, but felt like painting the scenery before introducing the story.

I’m running on about three hours’ sleep, so perhaps the fatigue is making me a little overly sentimental. Not sure. Anyway, it’s interesting, the avenues a creative mind can take, especially when sleep-deprived.

Perhaps it’s the mixed cocktail of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and subtly eavesdropping on the two gentlemen behind me trading tales, but I start thinking about my Uncle Jim, my mom’s brother-in-law.

He fought in Vietnam in the 60s, and has some really crazy stories. He survived only by the grace of God and he’d tell you exactly the same.

One of the best stories I’ve heard, not just from Uncle Jim but anyone, is when he and his company were walking through the jungle one time. He suddenly got something in his boot, a pebble I think, and sat down for a minute to get it out. The man behind him walked on ahead, and then once this minor irritation was removed, Uncle Jim rejoined the line.

When Jim got home, he and my Grandma Stroud were talking. She told him God once woke her up in the middle of the night to pray, so she did until she felt Him release her to go back to sleep.

Turns out that was the exact day and time Jim got a pebble in his boot. He remembered such a seemingly insignificant event because the man who had taken his place and walked on ahead of him stepped on a landmine.

Jim said there wasn’t even enough left of the poor man to send home.

God used a pebble in a combat boot, a small and irritating thing, to save my uncle’s life. Who knows how many times our lives have been saved from something just as small, just as irritating?

This morning our plane sat on the tarmac for three hours with an “electronic anomaly.” It took us four hours to make a one-hour flight and American Airlines had to change our connecting flight in Dallas.

There were slight delays on the next two flights as well, and by the time we reached the resort we’d been up for 20+ hours.

Who knows why it all went down this way? All the delays, all the fatigue. We rented a car when we arrived, so, had we got here on time, maybe there was an out-of-control driver who would’ve taken us out.

I remember a story my other Uncle Jim, my dad’s brother, told me. His father-in-law was driving late at night, with his wife and someone else in the car (can’t recall who).

He suddenly saw what looked like three people on the road, jumping up and down and waving their arms wildly. They appeared to be trying to warn him of danger ahead.

So he quickly slowed down at the bottom of a steep hill, but the second he came to a full stop, the three “people” disappeared. He probably figured he was just tired, and seeing things.

At that moment a car roared over the hill on the wrong side of the road. The driver saw the lights of the stopped car and corrected, veering back into his own lane just in time to whizz past at a high rate of speed.

If Jim’s father-in-law hadn’t stopped he would’ve crashed headfirst into the other vehicle, more than likely killing everyone in both cars.

About this amazing event, Jim’s daughter Christina says, “That story about my grandparents was a core memory for me, and had a huge effect on how I view things like getting stuck in traffic, getting delayed, etc.”

“Angels,” they all figured. God used what appeared to be three manic phantoms to save their lives.

“God works in mysterious ways,” they say. Yeah, man, no joke.

Pebbles and phantoms.

I admit I get irritated at minor inconveniences sometimes, but my wife is always trying to find the bright side. “Everything happens for a reason,” she smiles. 

Next time your flight is delayed, you get a pebble in your shoe, or see a manic phantom in the road, remember: God loves us WILDLY, and will use whatever means necessary, including slight irritations and seeming hallucinations, to save our lives.

Just a thought.


This entry was posted in Pain.
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