I was floating on the lake at Huntsville State Park last weekend enjoying the majestic view of the trees, standing tall and connected and stretching into the heavens.  The sky was a soft blue and the water was a rustic orange color.  The sun was shining off the water, reflecting gloriously bright.  A very large bird swooped down near the water and soared beautifully just shy of its surface, Catching a fish in its beak and then landing on the far side of the lake’s shore.

Such peace.  The tranquility of the soft sway of the water beneath me lulled me into a silent trance.  Fermata. Resting, holding. The laughter and chatter and the splashing of the water as people jumped off the wooden island surrounded me, yet I was just floating on a pillow of possibility and hope.  The hot sun was warming my skin with small dark spots of God’s glory. Freckles. Always a reminder to me of God’s presence in my life.

I need these times of quiet reflection. Time where I listen to God’s creation and He answers some of those longing questions in my spirit.  This year has been one of internal struggle and external complications. Life is not always roses and smiley faces.  Sometimes the seaweed chokes out the vast beauty of an otherwise seamless shoreline.  Imperfection amidst the perfection of God. My life is very good. But this year has been hard.

Those waves can hit so hard they strip you to the bone. I know this because in Hawaii, while standing on the  North Shore a few years back, a wave did just that, stripped my swimsuit clean off.  This is a frightening reminder of how violent life can be and how quickly life changes. How quickly we find ourselves in the murky waters off course, yet God is always with me ever so gently pulling me on that weak flotation device directly back to him.

Monday a woman reminded me of just how gracious we should be for the days we are given.  She came in specifically to share with me that her 24 year old son had died suddenly of sepsis. He had been our customer since 2009, and every month she had faithfully come in for him and made his payment, talking with me about God, always pointing to my little wooden plaque that says “God is faithful.”

Today, she smiled at me with tears softly rolling down her cheeks as she showed me his obituary and death certificate. The earthly finality of life.  I said, “I guess it was God’s time for him to go. He sure is feeling great today!”  She said, “you know what Susanne, do you believe that too?”  I said, “Yes I do, scripture says we will not know the time or the place and God has numbered our days.”  She pointed at that plaque of mine and said, “He could have been a son that gave me mighty trouble, into drugs, or alcohol or many other things. But, God gave me 24 of the most joyful years of my life with Chris. God is faithful.”  My boss, who was standing there sharing this moment with us, reached down to hug her with tears in his eyes too. “Yes ma’am He is!”

We have reminders of how vulnerable and weak we are in body such as the death of her son for her.  For me it was the events of Sunday evening, that put a crack in our protective bubble. We have lived in our home for almost 14 years. We have never felt unsafe. In fact people have more than feared for us just because we live in a mobile home, yet, we have laughed it of off. There is the white trash cliché that we laugh at and pin fun quotes about on Pinterest.  Yet, you never consider that evil exists and that the cliché might actually be true for that particular day for anyone, no matter where they live. Should we adhere to it?

Evil was right there with me. In the Fermata, in the quiet, in the calm. We are vulnerable and its ok. God is there to calm the storm. We cannot let the evil that lurks around in the dark steal our joy and ability to stand. Death brings new life. Light exposes what is hidden in the dark. A mask removed reveals the truth of the character behind its empty face. He is a sinner.

His name is Scott. I have heard his name thrown around the park for a long time.  “He beats his wife.” “Mark went to Juve for hitting Scott.” “Scott had the cops called on him again.” ON and on it goes. But, yesterday, He knocked on my door and identified himself as Todd who lives around the left corner, with a spider man mask beside him on the porch rail, a kitchen knife in his back pocket and a lethargic, half stoned out of his mind squint in his baby blues. Amanda opened the door because she thought through the limited light in the small peep hole in the door that it was her uncle. He asked if he could borrow our phone.

Having been physically abused, having been a victim already of a senseless crime, I am generally usually on guard when it comes to strangers. I pay attention as it may to details and assess almost sixth sensish things going on around me. Because of the events of my past that feeling that creeps up your spine is not a welcome one. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, the dog began to bark with a determined howl from his crate in the kitchen. I spotted the mask and made one of those assessments, “he is not getting to my daughter.” So I asked Amanda to get the dog so we can bring him out to go to the bathroom.  She said, “Are you serious?”  “Yes” and I stepped outside with the phone.

I asked him determinedly if the mask belonged to him, knowing full well that it was not their just 20 minutes earlier when we said goodbye to my niece and sister in law. His response, “what would I want with a children’s toy?” That certainly sounded scripted. “Who are you calling?”…”My ex-wife, can you help me Um I don’t know how to use this phone.”  Seriously dude, its a smart phone touch tone; that was obviously a stall tactic. He was swaying a little, fidgity. Amanda had the dog almost to the door and Gunner rushed face first into it growling and snarling and ready for attack.  They came out side and we had to fight to pull Gunner off of him. I grabbed the phone and said, “What is the number?” I dialed and handed him the phone.  He walked slightly away from me. He handed me the phone.  I said, “they didn’t answer?” He said “no”, as Gunner was trying to rush him again. He said “thank you” and disappeared around the right corner. “Amanda says, ” I swear I saw a kitchen knife in his back pocket mom!”

I called my brother who lives in the direction he was going and explained a little, he said, “I will get him.” Then I called my other brother who said, “headed out.” Then I redialed the number the man had called and a woman answered the phone, “Hello again?” “Hello, do you know the man that just called you.”  She said, “he didn’t say anything.”  I said, “well he came to my door to borrow the phone and he said he was calling his ex-wife. Said his name was Todd.” She said, ‘Darlin I do not know anyone named Todd, you need to call the police.”  SO I called the police and they sent a car.

I receive a call from my brother Chris. “Sis, it was Scott, we are questioning him now.”  I said, “Who is Scott?” as I did not know him by name and had never met him, just heard the stories since my brother is acting manager of the park.  “You know Scott, Mark’s step dad.”  “oh no, he told me his name was Todd, Chris and said he lived in the opposite direction of where he lives.”  He said, “well he admitted coming to your house and he is seriously high.  Call the police, he is a pretty dangerous guy.”  I hear Scott in the background as my little brother Stephen is interrogating him. “What are you going to homes for at 11 o’clock at night borrowing their phone.  That was a my sister man.”  He said, “I didn’t know it was your sister or woudn’t have gone there.”  Steve, “You still don’t do that to anyone, why were you doing that.”

A police woman came to the door and we explained the situation.  She was harsh and cold explaining that it was not against the law to knock on someone’s door at 11, to ask to borrow the phone, to have a mask or to lie.  I explained that he had obvious criminal intent, and he is high as a kite.  My brother’s have him detained down the street.  She said, “if he comes back you can get him for criminal trespass, but, for now do not open your door and there is nothing we can do.”  She did not give us that warm, protected by the law feeling that we’d hoped for.

The end to this bizarre story is that it turns out the woman on the other end of the phone was his current wife, but since he identified himself as Todd she really didn’t realize she was asking me to call the police on her own husband.  She identified the mask as her child’s mask not understanding why we had it in custody. He was in the older ladies house next to me right before he was at our house.  She knew him and had let him in.  His story was that he had to use the bathroom and theirs was out.  He lingered in her bathroom for more than 10 minutes, coming out telling her that it wouldn’t flush and could he use her other bathroom.  She had that same eerie feeling that comes over you when intentions are vague and she said, “its a new toilet and you need to leave.” She said he lingered long trying to get out of the house and she repeated her desire for him to leave.  When she found out about us, she was mortified as to what his actual intentions had been.  As were we. It was obviously not good, and we are grateful that we did not find ourselves a few years later on an episode of Criminal Minds.

The intentions of the heart, the desires that fester and grow within someone who does not have God to help guide them can be overwhelming. A mind that is drug induced can magnify these desires to do evil to get what it wants, and those who are not constantly allowing God to lead the raft, tend to run right over the edge of the waterfall right into the rushing waters that drown. God protected us by exposing his face and full identity regardless of his masked disguises, his intentions and his folly of errors along his path.

So, we occasionally fall off the float too, become in-balanced by fear or misguided choices and find ourselves sinking as we did this day, and as I have felt this year thus far.  The water is cold, dark and lonely and even if you open your eyes you cannot see.  But, if you reach up, with a small tinge of faith, your hand to God, he will pull you to safety.  He will put his full weight behind your body and help you recapture that balance that is necessary to find the calming peace of His majestic arms.

The bird was still sitting on the far off shoreline the many hours we spent in the lake that day.   God is watching, waiting and stirring the waters on our shoreline. Beckoning us to follow him.  Asking us to forgive and pray for those who harm or even just intend too.  Reminding us we are sinners saved by grace and we too could find ourselves in the timultious cesspool of sadness that comes in living without God’s buoy of hope.  Rest upon God’s life raft and seek His face.  Fermata. Holding. Resting. Calm.

Pray for Scott and his family.