May 31, 2010

Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So Elisha answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:17

Someone drew my attention to an article published in 2003 in Government Executive magazine, listing the ten most dangerous national parks, based on a survey of park rangers.

It’s a very interesting list because of the reasons why they’re hazardous. In four of them, drugs—trafficking and smuggling primarily—are to blame. A heavy illegal immigrant presence is another concern, mainly in parks along the Mexican border—Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Big Bend National Park and Padre Island National Seashore. The San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico deals with urban gangs. Trouble also comes in the form of plant and animal poaching, not enough equipment or staff, crime and plain old overcrowding.

New Jersey’s Gateway National Recreation Area also makes the list, since it supports more than 2 million visitors annually, and must contend with “potential terrorist targets in major shipping lanes” (Sandy Hook, where Gateway is located, is situated near the entrance to New York City’s harbor). But its most interesting dilemma, according to the report, is that it’s the state’s only beach to allow alcohol and nudity.

Who knew nude sunbathing could present such peril?! For the record, while this is where Joe and I usually go when we travel to the Jersey Shore, we do not go to the nude beach (although I at least have wondered aloud what it’s like…)

The apostle Paul was someone who knew all about danger. He had several adventures, scrapes and near escapes, chronicled in the book of Acts—blindness (9:8, 12, 17-18), persecution (13:50), stoning (14:4,5), arrest and beatings (16:19-24; 21:30-34; 22:24-29; 23-28), death threats (23:12-14), shipwreck (27:41-44)—even a snake bite (28:3-6)!  Sometimes, though, I have a hard time with Paul’s conclusion in 2 Corinthians 4:8 and 9: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…”  But I have felt crushed, despairing, forsaken or destroyed, I argue. And that’s my problem in a nutshell: I may be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down, but my feelings aren’t in charge—God is. And if He says He won’t let things get to the point of no return, then I’ve got to trust Him to work it out. And that’s just what Paul concludes too: his sufferings were “in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God” (2 Corinthians 1:9). So simple…yet so hard to do!

Yep, there’s danger all around, in our national parks, in our communities and even within ourselves. But I pray as Elisha did, that our eyes would be open to see that the One who is with us is so very much more than all that is against us.

One comment

  1. Christian Nature April says:

    I think this lesson is the hardest one to learn in our Christian walk. I remember “ScrewTape Letters” – #1 weapon in the enemy’s artillery is DISCOURAGEMENT!

    I know God knew what He was doing when He created us as feeling humans, but boy, it sure does present a challenge!

    Good post, Penny!

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