Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When Pigs Fly...

     Sunday night, I couldn't sleep and then,  just as I was about to go back to bed, my husband woke up. It was three a.m. but I wasn't surprised - in fact, I was expecting  to hear him stirring in the wee hours of the morning.  I knew that Monday would be the start of a new position for him and new beginnings always seem to walk hand-in-hand with a little anxiety, at least for us.  And anxiety - well, it always seems to come a'callin' about 3 in the morning.
      Fighting sleeplessness just makes it worse, I've finally learned.  So I decided, "Why not laugh?  This is as good a time as any..."  Earlier in the evening, as Phil slept,  I had been trying hard not to laugh out loud while reading Rescue the Captors by Russell Stendal.  I like missionary stories - high adventure, stories about what God is doing in other places.  But I seldom find myself shaking with laughter when I read a book like that.  This time, however, was different.
      Russell, as I mentioned in the last blog, was a missionary pilot who routinely flew over the jungles of Columbia.  His parents had moved the whole family to Columbia in order to  serve as translators with Wycliffe; at the time, Russell  was eight-years old.  There's nothing unusual about taking your kids with you when you move. What was unusual is that the whole idea of the move originated with  Russell.
     When he was four-years-old, his father mistakenly thought to improve Russell's young mind by simply reading to him about Indians in South America. The book he brought home, however, was more graphic than he  realized and to his young son's horror, it showed the native men getting drunk and fighting with machetes, complete with blood streaming from their wounded bodies. Russell was shocked and asked his father why they lived like that.  His dad replied that he guessed they didn't know any better. Russell demanded to know why they didn't know better. The dad said probably no one had told them there was a better way to live.  Russell, with the tenacity of a child, wouldn't let this drop - it was a serious matter to him.   The dad explained that he guessed no one cared enough to go over there and help them.  To this, Russell looked up at his dad (who could do anything!) and said, "You care about them, don't you, Dad?  You could go help them!"
      The dad was stunned and then, stumbling around for an answer, hit on the perfect reply.  He told Russell that you can't just get up and go to a foreign country, that first you have to be called by God to do missionary work and then you have to be trained. And then you have to raise finances, all of which takes time.  He ended his satisfactory explanation by telling Russell that maybe he could be a missionary some day when he grew up.
      Good work, Dad!  Handled that well!
      Only, before the father could congratulate himself on a timely answer to his young son's question, he saw Russell get on his knees and heard his son simply ask God to call his mom and his dad to be missionaries so he wouldn't have to wait until he had grown up to help the people in his new book...  :)
       Four years later, the family was on their way to Columbia as Wycliffe translators...
       So what does this have to do with flying pigs?  Well, sometimes missionary work is not what you think it is...
       When Russell was a grown man and a missionary in his own right, he allowed his brother to talk him into something that was, shall we say, um... not wise.  The remote station he was on needed supplies but they had no money for the month.  So Russell's brother talked him into taking their 250 pound hog (she's been raised like a pet... really tame.... won't give you any trouble...) on a 90 minute flight to the nearest town.  The idea was that Russell could sell the hog and use the money to buy supplies.
      Russell was skeptical so his brother gave him the assurance that he thought he needed - Chad promised to tie the hog's feet together and to knot the rope so tightly that that knot would never come loose.  Later, Russell realized that he didn't need assurance that the knot wouldn't come loose - what he  needed  was assurance that the pig's feet wouldn't come loose...
     Several men loaded this unhappy porker onto Russell's little Cessna, putting the hog in the area behind the pilot and co-pilot's seats.  The pig's feet were duly trussed and Russell began barreling down the runway in his little plane. When he began to throttle back to become airborne, gravity took over and the pig went skidding into the rear end of the plane, crashing through the metal baggage compartment. Russell was just barely able to get the wheels back on the runway and bring the plane to a stop before the runway ended.
     To his surprise, the cone of the plane was not damaged and his friends came on board to put the now angst-ridden porker back in her original place. Only this time, Russell took one of the seat belts, which was anchored to the floor, and cinched it between the pig's feet, which were still tied together and held by that reassuring, can't-fail knot.  So now the pig was knotted and grounded...
   This time Russell got airborne and after thirty minutes of listening to the protests of the pig, he began to think the trip was going to be a piece of cake. Then he heard the pig beating against the wall of the plane with her rather ample rear end.  He looked back and to his horror, saw that the pig had gotten her hind feet out of the rope and was twisting with all her might.  As he watched, she managed to break the latch on one of the side doors and then, in a matter of seconds,  her impressive derriere was dangling outside the plane while her front feet were held tightly by the seat belt/rope arrangement, said knot still proudly doing it's job.
    Being a pig and not understanding issues of altitude, the animal started  stretching her hind feet as far as she could, trying to reach terra firma. Which, ain't gonna happen 6,000 feet above ground... But the pig didn't know that.  So she kept reaching for the stars.. uh... the dirt.. while Russell jumped out of the pilot's seat and tried frantically to get the animal's rear end back into the plane.
    Ever tried to pull a hundred pounds of an unhappy pig's hind quarters back into a plane that no one is flying?  Let's just say it didn't work...  Then Russell noticed that the plane was making a lazy turn to the right so this gave him an idea. Why not let gravity do the job?  He jumped back into the pilot's seat and banked the plane so that gravity would be on his side and hopefully raise the pig's hind end higher than its front end.  As he put the plan into motion, he could see that it was starting to work so he put a little more height on the turn and then jumped up to shut the door as soon as the pig's feet came back inside the craft.  Unfortunately, just as he got to the pig, the hind quarters came free and the animal went skidding across the plane, taking Russell with it.  They careened into the door on the opposite side of the craft and this time, Russell's rear end was the one  dangling out an open door. But not to worry - the pig was lying on top of him so he couldn't fall out... Ha!
      He managed to reach out with his hand and grab an iron bar and then he proceeded to hit the pig over the head with it.  This was .. a mistake.  First, the pig had so much fat cushioning her head that the iron bar didn't change her mind about moving.  Second, it did make her royally ticked, however.  Third, it gave her a focal point for her frustration - Russell - whom she proceeded to shower with her  displeasure, literally, as she  released her bladder and her intestines.
     Not good...
      Somehow, he managed to get out from under her - I think it helped when she shifted her body so that she could get a better shot at biting his ankle...  He got back into the pilot's seat - which was a good thing since he had two doors with broken latches and they were both flapping in the breeze at this point.  And besides, a plane sort of needs a pilot...
     The pig, now centered where she should be, pursued her goal of biting Russell's foot so he sat on his right leg, trying to keep it as far away from her as he could while using  one hand to hang onto the door behind  him so that the slipstream wouldn't mess with the craft's balance so much.
      During this time, his right foot went to sleep but his prayer life picked up!!!
      Finally, by the grace of God, he made it to his destination, pig and all.  (And I haven't even told you about the donkeys on the runway... Or trying to land using one foot and one hand..)
      As I recounted this story to Phil, we were both rolling on the bed, laughing uncontrollably. At four in the morning, no less.  It did occur to me during this time to wonder what our twenty-one year-old son would think if he could hear us guffawing hysterically in the stillness of pre-dawn.  I think he sometimes wonders if we are losing it as it is. But he said he never heard us so that was good.
    But after the laughter had died down, I kept thinking about the knot.  The one that was supposed to fix everything, keep the pig in place, etc.  I wondered how many times I have moved forward, confident that problem A wouldn't happen simply because I had a human guarantee, so to speak,  in my pocket. Only to find, that, yes, the promise held. But it was a solution for the wrong problem. The "pig" came lose anyway  as it were...

   I guess I'm saying that it's a good idea to lay our plans before God and wait on Him before we go hauling off with incomplete guarantees. (I sort of think that God would have nixed the 250-pound-porker-in-the-plane  thing had Russell run it by Him first.).
  Also that worry is pretty useless because we don't even know what to worry about lots of times.  We're off worrying about problem A, not even knowing that problem B  exists.  God knows all of it. And He's told us flatly not to worry.  (Philippians 4:6-7)  We are to pray instead - something Russell did a lot of.. only after the pig had kicked open two doors and done his thing.  It's usually better to pray before the pig breaks the door latches...
  And sometimes, not always but sometimes, when anxiety comes knockin' at your door, laughter is also knocking, maybe not  as loudly but still there if you look for it.    So the next time you wake up at 3 in the morning in a cold sweat, wondering what the day or week will bring, worrying because you can't sleep and you need to, just remember: sometime pigs do fly:)
  And God specializes in knotty problems...
 Daniel was brought into the king's presence...[who told him] "I've heard that you can give interpretations and solve knotty problems..."  Daniel 5:13, 16
 Daniel's life assurance, the promise in his pocket so to speak:  "...there is a God in Heaven who unlocks mysteries.."  (Daniel 2:28) and "... holds your very breath in his hands, and to whom belongs everything you do."  (Daniel 5:23)  The Complete Jewish Bible.

Pray first.... :)

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