© 2018 Lynn Abbott
I love a good story. Indeed, as you have certainly guessed, story-telling is part of my family DNA.
Perhaps, this accounts for my son’s love of history. Stories of the past have delighted him since he was a little boy. For this reason among many others, travel has become an ongoing priority for our family.
And so it was that on an overcast, autumn afternoon, this homebody found herself standing in St. James’ park in central London while her then nineteen-year-old and his father wandered off to purchase tickets for another historic tour.
The canal and ducks initially invited me to wander further. While there wasn’t time for me to squeeze in any plein air painting, I did carry my trusty Canon camera.
The grassy causeway offered such peace despite the heavily traveled London streets that surrounded it. Thus, I longed to explore.
I knew instantly that artistic inspiration had found me.
“Click, click,” my Canon seemed to chatter.
I quickly gathered images of that storybook place to warm the walls of my studio. Quietly, I watched children chase and feed the ducks that waddled along the shoreline. And life’s tableau soothed my soul.
As I turned to cross the street to our late afternoon historic destination, a small cottage caught my eye. Its whimsical design captivated me, and I lingered, eager to absorb its history… its story.
The park, of course, was developed by James I, of King James’ Bible translation fame. However, the current “Duck Island Cottage” did not occupy the small island until the 1840s.
At that time, the Ornithological Society commissioned architect John Burges Watson to design a cottage for the Royal Bird-keeper and the cottage has remained a part of this city haven since then.
However, the peaceful setting gives no indication of the cottage’s stormy history. Indeed, the bungalow has stood stalwartly through two major world wars.
Artistic inspiration had found me.
I imagine that the air raids of World War II were particularly formidable in this central London location. On the surface, this small gingerbread house built to house the keeper, who gently and faithfully cared for the birds of St. James, appears quite vulnerable.
But that is only part of the story. You see, the historic site that my son, husband and I visited that day is hidden from view.
Built under the sidewalks of the city, Churchill’s war rooms, his command central throughout World War II, kept a watchful eye on the enemies’ movements and, from there, the Prime Minister and his trusted advisers orchestrated the defense of not only the city but also of the nation.
That’s right. No more than a few yards away, unbeknownst to Londoners and, very likely, the occupants of the cottage, Churchill and his team stood guard; they were the invisible sentinels.
I likely would have succumbed to fear. The sirens blare undoubtedly filled the cottage occupants’ natural senses. And I know from experience that faith’s sight, under such circumstances, becomes foggy or dusky.
Yet, only a few feet away, unseen warriors secured the nation’s safety.
My sojourn in this sometimes fear-fraught world parallels that of the cottage. And even though, my head reminds me that I am not alone, my heart sometimes finds it difficult to hang onto faith when night raids ensue.
Churchill and his team stood guard; they were the invisible sentinels.
Like Peter, I focus on the wind and the waves. I sink instead of stand.
I think, perhaps, that this was the case with Elisha’s faithful servant. Elisha had come under fire. In 2 Kings, Elisha received a warning from God: the Israeli army should avoid a certain road since Syria planned an ambush.
When the Syrian strategy thus failed, the angry king looked for a scape-goat. Having learned of Elisha’s prophetic warning, the Syrians plotted to capture Elisha while he stayed in the city of Dothan.
Scripture records the Syrian king’s plan in chapter 6, “And he sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city.”
As darkness surrounded Dothan, the enemy gathered to destroy Elisha.
When the sun rose, Elisha’s servant went out to begin his day’s work. I can well imagine his terror when he saw a vast Syrian army encamped on the city’s doorstep. All hope seemed lost.
Elisha’s answer reminds me of God’s uninterrupted night and day watch: “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them,” (2 Kings 6:16).
If I had been there, I probably would have spewed my morning coffee. After all, as far as Elisha’s companion knew, it was he and God’s prophet against the world.
His look probably said it all because Elisha immediately responded, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see,” (2 Kings 6:17).
Immediately, Elisha’s servant saw God’s invisible army on the mountains around; vast numbers of horses and chariots of fire stood ready to defend Elisha.
And God’s unseen guard also protects you and me. When the enemy comes against us; when we face persecution for our faith; when trials batter our physical bodies, hearts and souls, God is there.
In the middle of the night, as sirens blare and fire shatters the sky, I do not see the silent sentinels standing guard.
Yet, God, in mercy and grace, guides me to safety. The light is always on in God’s war room.
And God’s unseen guard protects you and me…
I understand this in the morning light.
True, the enemy prowls “seeking those he may devour,” (2 Peter 5:8). Satan demands permission to sift Job.
Demons fight with Michael as God’s messenger makes his way to deliver the answer to Daniel’s prayers, (Daniel 10).
Without a doubt, the journey can be extremely treacherous.
While I may be blind to His hand in the world around me and while I find it easy to focus on the dark armies encamped against God’s people, Abba’s protective wings cover me in spite of my frail faith.
For this reason, as storms and darkness in this world continue, I pray that our faith eyes will be opened (Ephesians 1:18).
I ask Abba to enable you and I to be, as Paul has written, “… strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might…”(Ephesians 6:10).
I pray because I am absolutely convinced that through His mercy and grace, we will “be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm,” (Ephesians 6:13).
Indeed, I know this to be a promise.
The battle rages, but my Savior stands near. And my safe passage will not depend upon me, but upon the Unseen One in whose grace I stand.
“For Thou has been my help, And in the shadow of Thy wings I sing for joy,” ~Psalm 63:7
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” ~Hebrews 11:1