2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
I had spotted them from the back window, drawn by the sound of their voices and laughter; two girls with skipping ropes that had been gifts at the birthday party they'd just been to. On the long spring green lawn they swung their ropes and skipped, hair streaming in the breeze; carefree as only children can be. Oh, how I love them, I thought.
Moments later they came in from their Sunday afternoon play and asked if they could have a story from Parables on the Pond. They know with complete confidence that whatever I might be doing I would drop it to share a precious few moments with them, and they know that I love this children's book of devotional stories.
And so they snuggled, one on each side of me on the couch, as we turned to the next story in the book, Journeying Geese and the Rock Refuge. I have been surprised and delighted at how much they love the book. At 9 and 10 they are not too old to enjoy stories of a frog named Francis and a newt named Nancy, not to mention Cecil Snake and other assorted amphibians. They love the stories, and the questions afterwards, open up conversations I would never have had without them.
The story was about taking shelter from danger and finding places of safety. One of the questions was, "Have you ever had to run and take shelter from danger? What happened?"
"Like when we practice Code Red drills at school?" asked Tiffany-Amber, "They can't see me from the window when I'm under my desk."
A chill went through me as I realized that my granddaughters were being prepared at school for a danger that I never wanted to imagine them facing.
They talked of what they've been taught about strangers and cars and screaming, "Fire!"
They wanted to know, "Why do we have to yell 'Fire' if someone pulls us into a car?" and "Can we bite as well as kick and scream?" Suddenly their lives didn't seem so carefree.
We talked of cowardice and courage and what those mean, and ended our conversation with the verses from psalm 61 about God being our refuge and strong tower; our courage is in him.
Later Peter reminded me that when he was at school it was a nuclear war that the children were being prepared to survive. I shivered again at that thought, but it put things into perspective.
Tonight Paul and I watched a wonderful documentary, borrowed from the library, called, "Making Choices; The Dutch Resistance During World War 11." The courage of the ordinary Dutch people, was so inspiring. One woman and three men, all of deep faith in God, told the story of their experiences of World War 11, their memories and heroism, although none of them would have called themselves heroes. They told their stories with Dutch matter-of-fact-ness and dry humour, but their eyes glistened with tears at memories still vivid over 60 years later.
One of the men told of the first air raid he experienced, and how his father gathered the family into the centre of the house near the stairs, which they thought was the safest place. He said that as the children huddled in the hallway, with the terrifying sound of droning aircraft above, he felt as though they were all under "the shadow of his wings."
The woman spoke of being taken for interrogation after months in a concentration camp where she had rehearsed a story, fabricating another identity in order to protect her friends working in the resistance. As she left to finally be interrogated, a Catholic friend said, "I am going to storm the gates of heaven for you." It dissolved her hatred of the enemy and instilled her with courage.
She said, as they questioned her she thought, "They think I am in the hands of the Germans, but I am really in the hands of Almighty God." God enabled her to stick to her story perfectly and she was released.
She now tells her story to students and she tells the children that life is a series of choices. She encourages them to make choices of integrity and courage.
Courage, my friends. May we have it for whatever tomorrow brings. May we hide God's Word in our hearts and the hearts of our children and grandchildren, so that when we and they need it we can all draw on the powerful strength hidden in it.
Psalm 63:7 (New International Version)
7 Because you are my help,