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Friday, January 2, 2009

God's Eyes

Greyson brought home a school craft project that evoked memories of mine (Ginger) from way back when I was his age; a God's eye. Jim didn't seem quite as familiar with it. I guess because he didn't grow up in New Mexico like I did. Making God's eyes to hang on the Christmas tree was a big deal for me. If you don't know what in the world I am talking about I will describe them to you. First you take two popsicle sticks and glue the center of them together so they make a cross. Then you take several different colors of yarn and intermittently wrap the colors starting from the inside of the cross out in diamond-shaped patterns until you reach the edge of the popsicle sticks. The joke is that I was always the one who decorated our Christmas tree and wrapped all the presents growing up. My mom was good at so many things but she wasn't exactly Miss Home Economics. So I remember being in charge of that stuff alot. And I definitely remember covering the tree in God's eyes one specific year. It was probably in one of my mom's "Proud to be a part of New Mexican tradition phases" or something like that. I do remember spacing them nicely apart so all the colors complimented each other and they hung facing out.

I read a little about them this year since Greyson sparked my interest in them again. They were actually an Indian craft tradition called "Ojo de Dios" or the "Eye of God". They were originally made to be placed on an altar so that their gods could watch over the praying people and protect them. Now, more often in our Christian culture, they are made to remind us that God looks with love on people everywhere. That is a nice thought, but is it true? I have often asked myself that question since Troy's death.

I find scripture mercifully addresses those type of questions with words such as these:
Hebrews 4:13
"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is hidden and uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."

Okay so I understand that He watches over everything but does He do it with love? I know I watch my kids play, eat, work, live but do I always do it with love? Most times yes but sometimes I am distracted, not really paying attention, irritated with their behavior or simply wishing I could be doing the zillion other things I need to be doing or the selfish things I would rather be doing. And sometimes, as often happens with toddlers, I take my eyes off of them and in a split second someone is crying, fighting, has a scraped knee or wounded feelings. And I wonder how that happens because I just took my eyes off them for a second? If parenting is supposed to be a similiar representation (which I am not convinced it really is because God is SO perfect and we are SO flawed) to the relationship between us and our Heavenly Father then does God do that too? I never questioned that once until He allowed Troy's plane to crash that day.

I grappled for a long time with the question of "Did God look away because He was busy doing something else and that was the second that Troy died?" Then when I would resolve the answer was no because His eyes are always upon us like the scripture said. Then I would begin the string of questions that always led to the even longer string of "Why's?". I praise the Lord for Pastor Steve's wisdom and vast knowledge of the scripture and who God is to continue to point me in the right direction. Even as a Believer it is so easy to fall prey to wrong doctrine when you are hurting.

Truth was, hard as it was to swallow, God Almighty does love us infintely AND allows devastion into the lives of His beloved. It is the very difficult concept that keeps people from seeking relationship with the Lord. Jim and I have one person very close to us who struggles with that everyday of his life. But our challenge to him and to others is seek Him and you will find Him.

II Chronicles 28:9
"As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father (David) and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever."

Therein lay the motivation for me, I had to seek Him and even more I had to find Him in the depths of the darkness. I had found Him, so to speak, when I accepted His gift of Jesus and became a Christian when I was nine years old. But I had to find Him, on an entirely different level when He let me down, took away the love of my life and left me with more brokeness and responsibility than I could handle.

After all the blame I placed on man, ie: the Air Force all way down to anyone who had anything to do with Troy flying that day. And then all the blame I placed on God. After all that I came to the place where acceptance and peace lived. The place where I knew God never stopped loving me or watching over me.

Psalm 121: 3-8
"He will not let your foot slip, He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you, the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm, He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."

This scripture then made me question what is the definition of harm? Harm to me meant Troy crashing in a plane or disease in my children. This is when my study Bible and sought wisdom from others helped me to understand that when the Bible speaks of safety it is not always guaranteed in the physical sense but always guaranteed in the spiritual sense. Christ himself and many of his disciples would experience physical suffering and death. And who could God love more than His own Son or those few faithful left behind to spread His news throughout the world? Throughout history, many righteous people have tragically lost their lives and weren't rescued. Troy and Andrea immediately come to mind. The wicked do thrive and the faithful do suffer. But God does not abandon His people.

Lately I have found myself re-asking some of the same questions I settled a year ago in my mind. Two days ago, I met with Troy's wingman the day he crashed. He lives here in San Antonio but, despite his willingness, I just wasn't ready to talk to him. The time had come for us to talk. I knew it was something I needed and possibly something he needed more. He is a good man. It was a painful conversation that took me back to that utterly devasting day. Despite the answers to some questions I have had, the conversation raised even more questions in my mind. I know he was uncertain with what my reactions would be. He questioned himself and all those involved. I honestly told him I had done the same thing for many months and would have been unable to handle our exchange until now. Yes, I felt Satan circling and wanting (wants) me to place blame on this person or that. But as he and I cried, I grasped his hand and told him that though I wish the people and events surrounding all the circumstances before, during and after Troy's plane went down could and should have been vastly different, I still know that my God wanted Troy home with Him that day and He was going to take him despite the conditions of the moment. Beyond my heart and mind's comprehension, He was also going to allow his body to be taken from the crash site by the most evil of mankind. I still struggle with the hate I so easily can feel for them. I still pray and wait for Troy's body to return to U.S. soil. Jim saw many who beat cancer and who walked out of the hospital disease-free. Some faithless and godless women. I know there are soldiers who are wife-cheaters or tax-evaders or dead-beat dads coming home daily. By the world's standards they don't deserve the blessing. I cannot focus on these injustices. Jim helps me with that.His faith remains unshakeen and his heart is not bitter, either. He has always encouraged me with the enormous importance of this choice.

I turn to the book of Psalm 73:
vs 1-7: "Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity, the evil conceits of their minds know no limits..."

vs 13-28 "Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. If I had said "I will speak thus" I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sancturary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed completely swept away by terrors! As a dream when one awakes, so when you arisee, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies. When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant. I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward yo will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destory all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds."

His wingman told me he and Troy had breakfast in the chowhall at 5 a.m. that morning. That Troy prayed before they ate that God would grant them safety and would help us, their wives and children, with the challenges of them being deployed. Of all the things he told me about that day, this one meant the most to me. Troy sought the Lord's help that day just like all the others. I know he must have prayed in that jet as things became chaotic. Maybe a simple, "Lord, help me." like I have prayed so many times since. There was no doubt that Troy's faith and who he was greatly impacted his wingman that day. Just as Andrea's walk impacted the nurse that accepted Christ while taking care of her in the hospital. Powerful witnesses those two were. Will Jim and I be the same? I hope so. I pray so. Life is unfair. Will that unfairness make us stumble, lose our way or unforgive all the wrongs that occurred on that day in Iraq for Troy or those days in and out the hospital for Andrea?

My Bible has a powerful commentary on the above scripture I just quoted in Psalm. Here is an exerpt:

"Why does life seem unfair? Because we see only one part of the picture. It appears to us that success often has nothing to do with godliness: Those who ignore or even hate God may have more wealth and power than those who love him. Many Christians suffer while non-Christians seem relatively unaffected by life's difficulties. The writer of this psalm sturggled with such feelings. He saw arrogant, violent individuals who lived in ease and prosperity. What he saw even caused him to question the validity of his won faith. He felt cheated. Wy try to live right? It never seemed to pay off in tangible ways? But when he finally sat down to write, he wrote about how his attitude had changed. What had happened? He had begun to look at life from a spiritual point of view rather than from a worldly one. Life will always seem unfair when we measure it bey the earthly standards of health, wealth and power. But when we encounter God in a personal, intimate way-as the psalmist did in the sanctuary-we can gain a heavenly perspective. We'll begin to see the other part of the picture-that the rewards of this life are temporary and, as a matter of fact, can even hinder us from discovering what is really important."

It is a constant daily choice I must make to look at things from the spiritual perspective. From God's eyes. Not the popsicle and yarn version. God's eyes. The compassionate, loving, just eyes of a parent without imperfection or distraction or selfish motives.

I finally looked over the 5-inch-thick accident report that was handed to me almost two years ago. Like the decision to talk to Troy's wingman, it was time I opened it. Jim helped me understand the many flying technical issues it discussed. I looked at the pictures taken of the crash site. Many of which, I had disconsertedly seen for the first time on the evening news the week of the crash. Some of these photos I hadn't seen before. Ones taken from high in the sky that day overlooking the ugly brown sand fields and farms where Troy's plane went down. The black smoke billowing into the blue sky. Though I can't imagine birds would want to fly in that grotesquely forsaken war-torn landscape, I imagined this is what they would have looked down and seen. This is what God saw. Yet He is everywhere so He looked from above and was coinsidily in the cockpit with Troy. He loved and cared for Him til the moment He welcomed him Home. Not skipping a milisecond between or the hate-filled acts that followed in the aftermath.

Growing up Southern Baptist I still recall old hymns we used to sing. I rarely sing or listen to them now. But I am warmed when the lyrics will come back to mind. After viewing these photos for the first time and meeting the man that last heard Troy's voice that day, this one came immediately to mind. I couldn't remember all the words so I googled them. The internet is good for something! I will close this blog with the background of this hymn and the precious words it says. I am also reminded in Scripture, we are worth much more than sparrows.

"Early in the spring of 1905, my hus­band and I were so­journ­ing in El­mi­ra, New York. We con­tract­ed a deep friend­ship for a cou­ple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doo­lit­tle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doo­lit­tle had been bed­rid­den for nigh twen­ty years. Her hus­band was an in­cur­a­ble crip­ple who had to pro­pel him­self to and from his bus­i­ness in a wheel chair. De­spite their af­flict­ions, they lived hap­py Christ­ian lives, bring­ing in­spir­a­tion and com­fort to all who knew them. One day while we were vi­sit­ing with the Doo­lit­tles, my hus­band com­ment­ed on their bright hope­ful­ness and asked them for the se­cret of it. Mrs. Doo­lit­tle’s re­ply was sim­ple: “His eye is on the spar­row, and I know He watch­es me.” The beau­ty of this sim­ple ex­press­ion of bound­less faith gripped the hearts and fired the imag­in­a­tion of Dr. Mar­tin and me. The hymn “His Eye Is on the Spar­row” was the out­come of that ex­per­i­ence."

by Civilla Martin

The next day she mailed the po­em to Charles Gab­ri­el, who sup­plied the mu­sic. Sing­er Ethel Wa­ters so loved this song that she used its name as the ti­tle for her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.


I sing because I’m happy,I sing because I’m free,For His eye is on the sparrow,And I know He watches me.
“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.


Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your heart, Ginger. Have you read, Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard? It is my favorite book that I go back to often throughout my life. I read the book to my kids when they were younger - it continues to impact me so much. Your sacrifice, journey through the "valley of loss", and the depth of your faith as you realize He is our treasure...all this reminds me of the book. I think you would like it if you've never read it. May the Lord continue to gaze upon you all with His masterful love.
    Jennifer Shepherd