Sunday, July 8, 2018

Shooting Stars

All of my life I have been a nature girl.

Part of it was likely due to the time and place that I grew up. It was in the '70s and '80s, when kids everywhere roamed the back roads and trails. Or at least the kids in my close knit community that surrounded various lakes and ponds and 100 feet tall pine trees. Walking, biking, swimming, laying out, volleyball in someone's front yard with a net hastily tied between two trees--that is how we rolled.

Oh, the night sky in that place--to this day it remains a stunning display of stars, without too much background light to block the brilliance. So many hours were spent just looking up at that sky, wishing on the first star of the night or searching for various constellations.

I was always, always, searching for shooting stars. Statistically speaking, given the number of hours I spent looking up at night, combined with the clearness of an out-in-the-country sky, I should have had plenty of sightings. It even became something of a joke during youth group outings for a while--everyone would see the cool awesomeness of streaks in the sky when I had turned away or headed inside to load up on snacks.

In college, there was even a season of using the 'shooting star challenge'-like Gideon's fleece- to determine who God did or did not want me to date.

       "OK, God.  f I see a shooting star in the next five minutes, then I will know that it is Your will for me to date ____________"--(I used this approach multiple times--wanting to make sure I was in the center of God's plan and all.)

Fifteen minutes later with no special celestial activity:

     "OK, God. If I see a shooting star in the next 5 minutes, then I will be sure that ____________is NOT for me."

Five minutes and 2 seconds later:

     "Well, I guess You're fine with me dating him, then. Right?"

(I was so spiritual in my dating choices back then, don't you know? ☺️  But still no shooting stars.)

Fast forward a few years--

I was two years into a five year dating relationship with the incredible guy that would eventually become my husband (chosen without the benefit of any celestial confirmation, by the way). We were both working at different camps that summer. Every other Saturday the staff would have a free night off between one set of campers leaving and another set arriving the next day. This was a luxury and one that we usually spent together out in the real world, dressing in regular clothes and going to see whichever movie of the week held the most mass appeal.

One particular week the movie was Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, with Kevin Costner. I was all ready to pile into one of the cars that was heading into the nearest real town, when I heard the news that there was a pretty significant meteor shower on tap for that night in the area, with a good chance of little cloud coverage and excellent viewing. And if my childhood lake provided a clear night time sky, it did not even compare to the one at that camp and the minimal outside light pollution. So, I semi-reluctantly decided to stay alone at camp to try my chances once again at finally seeing at least one of those elusive shooting stars.

The projected time frame for optimal viewing was between 9:00pm and 11:00pm.   headed to the pier on the camp lake around 8:30pm, armed with my pillow, blanket, Skin So Soft lotion (the insect repellent of the early '90s) and my mini-boombox loaded up with new batteries and a Rich Mullins cassette tape.

It was quiet and peaceful with the the camp nearly empty, and I spread out my stuff on the pier, popped in the cassette, laid back, and prepared for the event that I had literally been waiting on for almost two decades--my first glimpse of a shooting star. My excitement level bordered on downright giddiness, especially as my watch edged closer to 9:00pm.

9:00pm came--and went. Plenty of bright stars that were twinkling, but none of them moved.

9:30pm - nothing but the sound of Mr. Mullins playing for me and the fish and the tree frogs.

10:00pm - Nothing. I flipped the tape over for the second time, wondering how long the discount brand batteries would hold out in my portable music machine.

10:15pm-ish - The staffers started to return to camp, singing "Everything I do, I do it for you-u-u-u" enthusiastically as they unloaded and converged on the kitchen for some late night snacks. I started to contemplate loading up and joining them, but decided to at least stay until 11:00pm, just in case...

Shortly after that, the song Awesome God started to play for the second or third time that night.  Awesome God was, and remains, probably one of the most recognized songs that Rich Mullins is known for. I liked it--it was my favorite song on that particular tape, with cool and catchy '80s sounding lyrics.

Only this time, it was different.

Oh, when He rolls up His sleeves
He ain't just puttin' on the Ritz (see what I mean?)

Our God is an awesome God.

(And during that particular line - Our God is an awesome God- a single shooting star shot across the sky.  WIN!!!)

There's thunder in His footsteps
And lightning in His fists.

Our God is an awesome God.

(And once again, during that single line, synced up perfectly with the lyrics, a single shooting star came from the opposite direction.)

And the Lord He wasn't jokin'
When He kicked 'em out of Eden.
It wasn't for no reason that He shed His blood.
His return is very close and so you better be believin'
That our God is an awesome God. (Once again, a single shooting star)

Then, the chorus came, with about 20 shooting stars keeping perfect time with music (WHAT!?!)--

Our God is an awesome God,
He reigns from Heaven above.
With wisdom, power and love
Our God is an awesome God.

(Shooting stars stop and the sky returns to normal as the song continues.)

And when the sky was starless in the void of the night
Our God is an awesome God. (Yep, a single shooting star again.)

He spoke into the darkness and created the light.
Our God is an awesome God. (Again.)

The judgment and wrath He poured out on Sodom.
The mercy and grace He gave us at the cross.
I hope that we have not too quickly forgotten,
That our God is an awesome God. (And again.)

(The same thing happened with the chorus as before, about 20 shooting stars.)

Then, the chorus repeated a few more times--BUT, this time shooting stars came from EVERYWHERE, going in all directions across the sky. It was like the most spectacular fireworks show, all in perfect time with the music. Three hundred of them would be a conservative estimate in a short amount of time.

'Our God is an awesome God' is repeated twice, with a short instrumental part, as the stars continue to light up the night.

The song ends with 3 notes - something like Dum! Dum! Du-u-u-u-u-m-m!

And I kid you not - with those last 3 Dums, there were 3 perfectly timed humongous shooting stars that covered my entire sky viewing field.

And then - nothing.

I stopped the tape, completely and totally awestruck, waiting for the residual flashes in the sky.

There were none.

I quickly rewound the tape and replayed the song, willing and hoping for a repeat performance. The song was the same, but the sky had returned to its regular sparkly beauty. I waited for three more hours, until there was a full cloud cover and the batteries had drained away, just in case. But there was not even a hint of flashing brilliance.

So I loaded up my night time stash, with a mind and heart absolutely full of wonder and privilege of what I had been able to witness. I told everyone at camp about it the next day. I shared it with the rest of my campers that summer. I have told various friends and youth groups about it over the years. I am reminded of it every single time I hear the song, as well as when I make my yearly drop offs/pick ups for summer camp for my children, at the same camp of that long ago summer.

Many seem to think it is a great story, and it certainly is. Some have come back years later and said it inspired them to seek for glimpses of God and His wonder in their own lives, and I love that. Most probably forgot about it over time, which is understandable.  It has taken me almost three decades to actually get this story written down, more for my own benefit than for anyone else, because I know that nothing I write or describe can do it justice.

So many wonder how I 'keep my faith' or 'stay positive' or whatever when the storms of life are raging all around. I suppose I have all kind of reasons or verses or explanations for that, but in so many ways I think it is best explained in this story of a girl that was stretched out on a pier one night looking for a single sign, and was graced with what surely must have been one of the best planned and orchestrated concerts of awesomeness in the history of man.

It was not random. It was not coincidence. It cannot be rationally explained.  The God of that song, that is filled with wisdom and power, chose to display both in a beautiful expression of love, just for me. That is just the kind of God that He is. He loved me then, and He loves me now. So I will just rest on that promise for now, and cling to it in all manner of storms that are sure to come.

And you know what? Even though I still love looking up at the night sky, I have never seen a shooting star again. And I am totally fine with that.

The pier today, but it still looks the same as it did back in the day.

Where I was on that fateful night

The view from my back--only during the day and with clouds