One of the bravest men I've ever met is retired Navy Lt. Cmdr Ralph Gaither. As a young US Navy pilot, Gaither was shot down over Vietnam and spent more than 7 years as a prisoner of war in what became known as the "Hanoi Hilton." He wrote a book about that nightmare. It is entitled, "With God in a POW Camp." If you ever have the opportunity to get your hands on a copy of this book, do it.
On Day 10 of my Chapel-A-Day Lenten blog series,* I thought about my friend Ralph as I sat in the All Faiths Chapel aboard NAS Pensacola. I thought about the many men and women who have served on this base through the years...who sat in these pews, looking to the ultimate Commander in Chief for their guidance, direction and strength. As someone who is unabashedly patriotic, I gave thanks to God for their service and for their dedication to our country, the United States of America.
I sat in the front pew, and slowly took in every aspect of the chapel---the baptismal font, the altar, the cross, the beautiful stained-glass depiction of Jesus---the American and Navy flags...
...and the eagle.
Ya' know.. it's not every day that you find a statue of an eagle in a chapel. But, as the national emblem (since 1782), and in a chapel on a base where flying is as much a part of life as breathing... it seems appropriate.
I began to look up scriptures about eagles. One of the most-quoted comes from the Old Testament book of Isaiah: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint."
I thought about LCDR Gaither. As a Navy pilot, he'd flown higher than any eagle has ever flown. But, when he was shot out of the sky... on a heroic mission that earned him the Silver Star, The Legion of Merit and The Flying Cross Awards (among others)...he had to wait.
For a very long time.
As he told me, there was only one Source that renewed his strength---and helped him walk and not faint.
Today's chapel time reminded me that we should cherish the wonderful days when we are strong and bold and soaring high above the troubles of the world! And, on those days, we should give thanks to the One who helps us spread our wings and fly!
Today's chapel time also reminded me that on those days when we are shot out of the sky---there is a promise. A promise for renewed strength and a better tomorrow!
*During the season of Lent, I have decided to spend an hour a day in a chapel or church sanctuary in a quest for spiritual growth. If you'd like to read more about that, you can begin with the first blog in the series here: http://drexelgilbert.blogspot.com/2013/02/a-chapel-day-my-40-day-journey-into-lent.html