Saturday, September 10, 2011

Who Knew?

I shared my memories of September 11, 2001 back in May, and now I thought I'd post this poem I wrote shortly after the horrible events of that fateful day.

Who Knew?
by Steven Sauke
© September 2001

It began as a peaceful Tuesday morning
The sun shone, the birds chirped
Who knew what was about to happen?
Who knew the peace would be shattered?
That planes would crash into buildings?
That thousands of lives would suddenly be cut short?
That fireballs so huge could billow out of national landmarks?
Who foresaw bodies falling 110 stories to the ground?
The World Trade Center plummeting after them?
The Pentagon in flames?
Smoke billowing into the sky,
Blotting out the sun,
Turning the bright blue sky a dismal gray?
Dust blanketing a city in a velvety, macabre coat?
Who could have known on such a bright sunny day
That in a few minutes a nation would be in shock?
That a planet would be in grief?
That in 225 years the US had never seen such a disaster
As what was about to happen?

Who would have guessed that in one morning,
A sharply divided nation would come together
To donate blood, to pick up the pieces, to pray for our fellow Americans?

Who could have known that in one morning,
A nation, an earth, would forever be changed?

Who foresaw an outpouring of grief,
Of sorrow,
Of love,
Of flowers,
Of candles,
Of silence,
Across the nation,
Across the earth?
Who knew flags across the world
Would soon be placed at half-mast?

Only God knew
And He held up the towers for an hour
To let people escape

Only God knew
And He caused the planes to hit the towers high enough
That they collapsed straight down
Rather than falling over
And wiping out more of Manhattan

Only God knew
And He diverted a plane away from the White House
Into the only part of the Pentagon
That had been retrofitted
For terrorist attacks

Only God knew
And He stopped in mid-flight
Another plane headed for the White House
Sending it crashing
Into a field.

Praise be to God
For sparing us from something worse
Praise be to God!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Driving Fear - Part 4

Close Calls

It was September or October of 2002. Thanks to the sun, that is one of the worst times of the year to drive, and I had a class in Everett, WA. I had just left school to head home, and the sun was setting. I had to drive up a hill, and the sun in all its brilliance was just over the ridge of the hill, straight ahead. There was no way to avoid looking into the sun, as I would have had to block off the windshield or shut my eyes, either of which would have been dangerous. I couldn't see ahead of me, and I quickly realized that it would be too dangerous to continue forward, as the sheer brilliance of the sun was blocking everything. But the alternative was almost as dangerous. I realized I had to turn around, but that meant turning left into a parking lot, crossing the oncoming lane. I couldn't see if there were any cars coming! Finally, I said a prayer and trusted that God would protect me when turning blindly. They were some of the most terrifying seconds I have ever experienced, but God protected me and no cars came while I was crossing. Needless to say, I went the other way and made it home safely. But I will never forget that day, when God taught me an important lesson about faith. Sometimes all you can do is pray and trust that He will protect you, then make the leap.

Fast forward a few years, and I was going to a reunion for a former employer who had gone out of business. It was in the form of a picnic at Seattle's Carkeek Park. I got to the park and searched for our group. Nobody. I never did find the group, so I ate the food I had brought and left. I was involved in a play with UPAC Theatre Group at the time, and rehearsal was that evening. Carkeek Park is pretty close to the rehearsal and performance space, so I drove to rehearsal. The park is in a particularly hilly area of town, and as you are leaving, there is one corner that has a stop sign, and the hill on which you have to stop is somewhat steep. I hate waiting on hills as it is, since it's somewhat challenging to get enough traction to go forward rather than backward. In addition, that particular corner intersects a tree-lined street. Between the trees and the fence, it makes for a blind corner. So I inched forward as far as safely possible in order to have at least the front tires on a flat surface and so I could see around the trees. When it looked safe, I started forward again. Just then, a car that must have been going about twice the speed limit zoomed past, coming out of nowhere, and very nearly hitting me. If it had, I would have spun out of control and probably rolled down the hill. Thankfully, I had enough mental faculties left to get to rehearsal safely, but I was very shaken. I have not driven to or from Carkeek Park since. Again, God protected me.

I am incredibly thankful for God's protection. He has brought me through many close calls, and I have grown as a result. I would not want to repeat them, but I'm thankful that He's allowed me to experience them as He had a lesson for me each time.

Driving Fear - Part 3

The Garbage Truck

The year was 1986. My mom, my brother Tim and I were on our way to the airport to pick up my dad. I was sitting in the front passenger seat, and Tim was in the back. Nearly to the airport, we were stopped at a traffic light in what is now the city of SeaTac (so named because it's between Seattle and Tacoma), and there was a garbage truck ahead of us. The light turned green, and nothing happened. The car ahead of the garbage truck was not moving. (I forget if it was stalled or the driver had decided to get out while the light was red.) So it was that the garbage truck with its high rear bumper started to back up. My mom laid on the horn, but the driver continued to back up, not hearing. We couldn't back up because there were cars behind us. The truck was folding our hood, and my mom and I sat there terrified, praying desperately. My poor brother was sitting in the back seat with visions of being the only survivor. It wasn't until our windshield shattered that the truck driver finally heard and stopped...within a few inches of crushing us. He got out and came back, observing that it was "obviously my fault." Once he pulled forward again, we found that the car was (thankfully) still driveable. The two vehicles pulled into the parking lot of the nearby Red Lion Inn, where my mom and the truck driver spoke with the police. The officer dismissed the other driver, and he got out his ticket pad. He informed my mom that this was his least favorite part of his job, but that he was going to have to give her a ticket for speeding! Why he didn't bother to get the facts first, I may never know. She said, "But sir, I was sitting still!"

"You mean he backed into you?!" he said. When my mom answered in the affirmative, the officer managed to catch the truck driver, who came back and corroborated the story. When he looked at the other driver's license, he wished him a happy birthday. I'm guessing that was not the driver's favorite birthday ever.

After we were dismissed, we continued on to the airport and picked up my dad, and our next stop was the repair shop. We liked the rental car better than our normal car. :-)

Some things I learned from this experience were that God is there, He hears our prayers, and He is our protector. Any time we are in a scary situation, we can pray to Him, and He will hear. Even when the driver ahead of you can't hear your horn.

Also, we should never jump to conclusions. There are better places to jump.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Driving Fear - Part 2

The Scenic Route

It was my first day driving on my own, with nobody else in the car. I had been to work many times, of course, but I had always either gotten a ride, driven with someone in the car to help me get there, or taken the bus. Now I was on my own. It was a simple trip from Mountlake Terrace to Bothell, WA. Maybe 5 miles, tops. No sweat, right?

But then came the missed turn. I went straight when I should have turned right. Pretty soon I found myself in Maltby. This was a cause for concern, as I had never been to Maltby before, and I had no idea where Maltby was. It's a pretty city, and I might have enjoyed it, had I intended to go there. Pretty soon I found a sign pointing to Bothell and followed it. I didn't see any other signs, and before I knew it, I found myself in an abandoned yard for an old building that looked like it hadn't seen people working there in about 50 years or so. OK, turn what?

I continued on my way in a direction that I figured was (hopefully) the way to Bothell, but pretty soon, I saw a Clearview Restaurant. Then a Clearview Gas Station. I was getting worried now because it looked like, judging from the common thread in the names of the businesses, Clearview was a city. I had never heard of Clearview, and that was quite concerning. I continued along a highway that seemed to go on and on, and I got the feeling I was getting farther and farther from my destination. Finally, I found an exit and turned around.

When I finally got to work, I was 2 hours late. Fortunately, once I explained the delay, we all had a good laugh. The drive should have taken about ten minutes.

(Click on the map to see it larger)

I thought that was the end of my adventures for the day, but my hopes were to be dashed shortly after I left work (2 hours later than I normally would have left). Not far from the parking lot, I was turning right onto the road that crossed the freeway. The light was red, but in the state of Washington, it is legal to turn right on a red light as long as it is safe. This being my first day driving on my own, I was somewhat less than confident, and so I turned right...way too slowly. A car that was already on the road I was turning onto came sailing through the light (his light was green, and he had the right of way), and he crashed into the rear driver's side light.

Needless to say, I was terribly shaken. The police officer had to console me before issuing the ticket. I called my dad, who came over right away, and was also a big help.

A $100 fine to the city of Bothell and over $400 of repairs later, I learned that sometimes going too slowly is a bad thing. Since then, every time I drive, I am very conscious of the dangers of driving. It instilled more of a fear than ever of making a stupid mistake, and I have become a better driver because of it. Since then, I have not gotten any more tickets, and I hope never to get one again.

That day, I also learned another important lesson: Knowing where you're going and how to get there ahead of time is very important. It may make for a funny story, but being late is very often not funny at all.

It should be the same with how we view God. We need to study His roadmap (the Bible) regularly, so that we are ready for whatever circumstances may come our way, and we know when we need to turn around...sooner rather than later. And we need to watch, be alert, and be careful to follow what He has taught us through His word and through life experiences.

Driving, and following the Lord, are incredibly liberating experiences, but if we don't balance our freedom with a healthy fear, we can forfeit (or at least impair) that freedom.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Driving Fear

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." -Proverbs 9:10a

This is the first of a short series of blog posts (inspired by my friend Andy Brasfield) about what I've learned over the years about the fear of the Lord, and driving in general.

When I was young, I kept hearing about how the Bible says we're supposed to fear God. Then other times angels told people not to be afraid. Other verses are very clear about how God loves us, and He wants to be our best friend. When we choose to follow God, we are free as never before. How are we supposed to be afraid of our best friend and liberator...and if He inspires fear, is He really a friend and liberator in the first place? This dichotomy has led, in my opinion, to a misunderstanding of God's nature, especially in American circles, where our culture frowns on fear and encourages friendship. We are taught that God is our friend, and we have nothing to fear. Then we see verses like 1 John 4:18, which says that "perfect love drives out fear." When we look at the verses about the fear of God, we get confused, and we often decide the word must be mistranslated. Maybe it means awe, or something else. It wasn't until I started taking driver's ed when something sunk in for me. I submit that fear means fear. Sheer, abject terror.

While learning to drive, my dad (who taught me) was very clear about the dangers of driving. He impressed upon me that a car can be a weapon, and it is vitally important to be careful, to drive defensively, to do everything possible to stay within the law and avoid getting in an accident. The point was further emphasized when he had me go to a day class taught by a professional instructor. After I got to the class, I found out that it was mainly for people who had been ordered by the courts to attend. The icebreaker for the class was for us to go around and answer the "Why are you here?" question. Everyone but me had broken the law, had DUIs, etc. I was the only one who hadn't yet obtained a license. The more I learned, the more the parallel dawned on me regarding the fear of the Lord.

Driving, and serving the Lord, are incredibly liberating. Once I got my driver's license, it was like a huge load was lifted off of me. I no longer had to depend on people giving me rides everywhere I needed to go.

Driving, and serving the Lord, are incredibly terrifying. I have been in enough accidents (more on that in a future post) to know that if I do anything out of line while driving (or someone else on the road does), I am taking my life, and the life of any passengers, in my hands.

In the same way, serving the Lord makes me free. On numerous occasions, He has given me an incredible sense of peace, and I would not trade this life for anything. I have seen Him do miracles in my life - not the least of which was how He miraculously healed my eyes from an incurable disease.

However, the Bible tells over and over about how, while God loves us deeply, our sins can drive Him to extreme measures to get our attention. Over and over in the Bible, God sent plagues, storms, diseases, opened the ground and swallowed people. Even today, He sometimes allows us to suffer the consequences of our sins to teach us to follow Him. He will allow us to get sick, sometimes even die, from choosing to abuse our bodies (by drugs, cigarettes, overeating [I'm guilty on that count], etc.). If we choose to speed, run a red light, fail to watch carefully while driving, we can get into a wreck that can cause serious repercussions.

On the other hand, we shouldn't be so terrified of driving, or of God, that we do nothing. If we go to that extreme, that can also have serious repercussions.

Yes, driving is incredibly freeing, and I love that...but I also balance it with a healthy fear of getting in an accident. That fear keeps me from making stupid mistakes while driving. It should be the same with God...and even more so. I love Him more than I can express, but I also fear Him. The problem is, I don't fear Him enough. If I love and fear driving more than I love and fear God, I need to get my priorities straight.

One thing that has stuck with me from a devotional I read years ago is the saying "If you fear God, you have nothing else to fear."