A few nights ago I purchased an airline ticket online for my daughter who returns to college in the Midwest after spending her winter break here in southern California.
We live sandwiched between two major airports, LAX and Ontario, and regularly use either of them, depending on which one has the flight we want. Ontario is slightly closer. Because it's so much smaller, the traffic is lighter. So, all other things being equal, that's our first choice.
But of course all other things aren't equal right now. Shortly after news of the Orange alert for terrorist threats flooded the media, security measures at LAX reverted to what they were right after 9/11. Whoever those experts are who eavesdrop electronically on terrorist chatter apparently hear LAX mentioned a lot as a possible target.
When I bought my daughter's ticket - for a flight out of Ontario rather than LAX - I knew this. I picked the most convenient flight. Still, I knew what I was avoiding, even though I could easily tell myself I wasn't avoiding theoretical danger but simply minimizing inconvenience. I could tell myself fear wasn't pushing me around.
Besides, fearless or not, I am a dad. And dads do things to care for their daughters. And their sons.
During this winter break one of my sons is working at Disneyland. He loves the job, says he can't believe he gets paid to go to Disneyland everyday. The only dark cloud - so far off in the distance and so small on the horizon that one scarcely ever thinks of it - is that Disneyland routinely gets listed as the No. 1 potential terrorist target in the state.
I can't do for him what I just did for my daughter. I can't simply say, "I'm not fearful. But this theme park is inconvenient so I'm sending you to another one." I can't sneak away from this issue so easily.
And I don't want to. So, I make the contribution to safety that a non-CIA, non-FBI, nonantiterrorist eavesdropper can make. I pray.
My son captains a small boat through a storybook scene at Disneyland. For some reason, as I think of him, I think of another boat and another captain and another scene. I think of Noah in the Bible and of his ark. I consider the safety it afforded him and his family and the many animals in his charge.
Can I see my whole family in that ark of safety? Can I see all of humanity there? Didn't the ark somehow symbolize how the divine presence took them safely through the worst of storms, kept them above the reach of threats, securely buoyed them up and out of harms way? I think so. And I know the divine presence is undiminished, that it does the same thing today as in Noah's day.
For this 21st century ark, how do I chart a course leading from southern California to the Midwest? How do I even chart a course for it through the heart of Disneyland? And what about the thousands, the millions of families hungry to offer real ark-like safety to their daughters and sons, their moms and dads and sisters and uncles and grandparents and friends?
The only way I know to chart such a route, and to load my loved ones onto such a craft, is through prayer. Through spiritual understanding of the nature and presence and safety-enhancing power of the Divine. And through realizing that this divine presence makes a meaningful and practical difference to me, day in and day out. No matter who we are. No matter where, or how, we travel.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy, in her main work, "Science and Heath with Key to the Scriptures," offers this description of ark: "Safety; the idea, or reflection, of Truth, proved to be as immortal as its Principle; the understanding of Spirit, destroying belief in matter" (page 581).
I want more of that understanding of Spirit, of God, which destroys the destroyer. I want more of that understanding that eliminates the whole notion of terror, of destruction, of danger. As I pray I find I have more of that understanding that the ark of safety is here. Can we all at least begin to hope, pray, and understand what tremendously good news that is? We can.
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust.