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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Marathon - Days 1 & 2

Day 1-2 The Marathon.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.                                                                                      ―1 Corinthians 9:24-25

It wasn’t life or death, my Lord, but it certainly was a sprint of uncertainty; the events all still fresh and clear in my mind’s eye. The day was beautiful, beginning with my prayers and exercise routine to center me on your plan, not mine. The rest of the day would not be routine whatsoever as this was to be the start of my 3rd journey to Your Land. There was much to do, between finishing up business, trying to spend a portion of time with my bride, who as you know was not called to be on this trip.

The morning breezed by and suddenly I was entering the airport for a favorite pastime (not):  Security checks are a necessity these days Lord, sad to say. All of us near-do-wells have to submit ourselves to various levels of indignity, because evil lurks―sometimes in the person right next to me.

The good news was that this frisking was brief and efficient. I believe you had something to do with the friendly environment and I give you praise for that.
Now on to my other favorite airport pastime (not): Waiting is a specialty of mine Lord. I have perfected the art of expectation, concocting all sorts of ways to distract myself. Yet, as my grandmother would quip, “The faster I go, the behinder I get.” Special meaning there, the better I get at keeping myself busy while in latent mode, the more time seems to drag.

Regardless; my first flight of three flights was finally boarded and swept me safely on to one of my favorite air-hubs (not): What can I say about JFK Airport that has not already been said, Lord. I have not had the best experiences there over the years and I was all hopeful that, since my last visit, they had worked out the kinks. Instead, I found they had invented some new ones.

Upon arrival, I had 1 hour and 15 minutes to catch my next flight. Under normal circumstances, a doable feat, but the circumstances were instead; JFK Normal.
I got the attention of the first Flight Desk Attendant I could find and he explained in his own mix of Caribbean English, “No problem man, ye jest go ye down dat escalator to its stopping and take a right. Go to them doors before ye and they’ll be a bus a waiting. Take it to Terminal 2, get ye off and then go all dat way through Terminal 2 until ye see Terminal 1 to ye left. There ye go.”

Easy Pease: Lord, I do love to experience fresh perspective through the eyes of humanity, but I confess as a spiritual reveler, trapped in a time-restricted body, sometimes the moment can’t be properly savored. I did manage to get to the bus with the help of another friendly attendant and on that bus I waited again. And waited.

Apparently, the 4 passengers on the bus were not enough for regulations to allow motion and I feared we might wait for another plane to land in order to reach critical mass. Fortunately, some higher power (maybe influenced by the Highest Power?) finally squawked through the walkie-talkie to the driver that his break was over and we should be on our way.

Critical Mass was most definitely reached at the next bus stop where we played the Let’s see how many people we can squeeze into a vehicle game. Now I was feeling a tiny tingling sense of panic―Satan whispering, “Are we running behind schedule?”

I trust in you Lord and at the beginning of the day, I prayed, “Your will be done.” So I pushed through the angst of not being in control and acknowledged: It is your day, your plan.

Finally, we got to Terminal 2 and I serpentined through the crowds. Another friendly attendant explained the next part of the obstacle course in fairly passable Africans/Philippine with a hint of Scotch, I think. “Taker thasr waay to thalr raht. Stay on thasr flowr to thatr doooolr downr tharr. Jarajar Binks could not have explained it better, mesah know.

What he didn’t explain was what to do at the door and I found myself exiting the building onto a car entrance ramp. My God and King, do travelers have this much adventure in the spiritual realms, traveling interdimensionally?

One more friendly attendant was all it took to get me headed left down a sidewalk and across a blocked of parking section to the long sought after Terminal 1. Upon entering, I saw International Chaos on full display. Every country and personage was decoratively represented, except for one. Air France, the one I now desperately sought. A friendly security guard assured me that the Air France desk did indeed exist and it was at the farthest end of the building for my convenience.

I needed to get to the desk because, though I had checked in at my Nashville origin, they had had no clue as to what gate at which I was to depart in New York. After moving my seat assignment so that I wasn’t sitting on the tail of the Jumbo Jet, the friendly lady at the desk assured me that I was not going to make the flight unless I ran really fast. Obviously, she has never seen me run. I did my best imitation however and fortunately encountered a security line that slowed me way down and I no longer had to pretend I was a speedster. The line poured fresh gas on the fire of my doubts about making the flight. I was now again thinking I was going to miss the opportunity you had provided for me to fly to Your Land.

Little did I know (so typical of me) that you were using this to strengthen my faith. I somehow made it through the indignity process in record time and was herded out into a foyer with absolutely no evident directional signs for assistance. I do love JFK (not):

A friendly indignity patter-downer explained to me that I needed to head down the indistinct hallway he pointed toward and to look for Number 5. Thank you Lord, it was all of another two-minute sprint-and-weave between suitcase wheeling pedestrians. I found the big sign marked 5, which was indeed a gate. I am sure I did not present the best image of myself to the next attendant, who assure the profusely sweating me that I had made it to her gate in time; it was just the wrong gate. I needed 5-B; thankfully right next door.

And that’s when things got much, much better Lord. Somehow, my sense of utter futility must have impacted the Air France desk attendant at JFK, for she had managed to acquire me the seat of all seats. The bulkhead front seat by the galley, just to the rear of first class: What made it even more special was the design of the plane which also had an exit door by the bulkhead so there was no wall. With the added benefit of there not being any other occupant next to me, it was as if I was sitting in my own private cabin. I was able to stretch out my feet completely, even snooze a bit, get up and do a lap or two, and with the help of a fine French meal with exceptional service from the also friendly air-attendants, to regain my sustenance for the last leg of the trip. Paris to Tel Aviv.

Lord, I know that you were my encourager and strong balm of healing. I recognized your presence as I made my third trip through security without a hitch. I know that you put wonderful, friendly people in my path when needed to guide my steps. Others less trusting in you might say it was just the system working itself out, but I don’t believe systems have that power. I don’t believe that things find their own way to work out well…or not so. I believe in you.
I also believe you put me in the path of others, for your purpose. Did I mention Kinya from the Dominica Republic who did not speak much English (nor I Dominic Francais), but who was carrying her Bible and who was going home? Did I mention the one thing we did learn of one another was that we shared a favorite name for you…Dad? Another Pentecost moment that you fed to both of us – how sweet that was.

Did I mention the French couple on my next flight who were standing and waiting for the flight crew to fix a botched seating assignment? I was corrected in my stereotype which had me thinking the French are mostly an impatient lot. You reminded me again how wrong I could be. Their manners and demeanor through the inconvenience was exemplary. I complemented them and even offered a petit four of their language for encouragement…”C’est La Vie.” They agreed and your seed of fellowship was planted.

What about the phone technician who, after I landed in Tel Aviv, patiently helped me for 45 minutes of programming hell to get my internet properly functioning.
All along the way, there was a constant sense that, whatever was happening had your stamp of spiritual management on it. Even the perfect weather and flawless flight schedules. OK, there was the fact that I had to wrestle with my international calling system, but that too became a small thing in the shadow of your greater ways.

Lord, the long and short of it was that on this day…two days in fact, you were the long and short of it. Others may agree or scoff, matters not. I know deep within when you are leading in delight and correction and I felt your spirit upon me in every way.

I praise you for that fellowship, especially on this one portion of my journey when I am not sharing the joy and presence of my wife and other Mishpacah traveling companions. I appreciate that we can do this together, not because of what I bring to the table, but because you bring the table itself and provide all, so that my cup will overflow by your filling.

I pray for that filling throughout this trip, and one other thing I can count on without a doubt―your will be done.

Mark C.

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