Over the past few weeks I must admit distraction has followed me everywhere. Rather than sitting at the laptop writing blog posts, or jotting thoughts for the next book, I answered every phone call, engaged in too many projects, took on impromptu work assignments, and went on every outing distraction sent my way. Why? Because maybe like some of you reading this, the thought of taking the next step forward to where God is saying “Go,”looks further than your feet can stretch.
After weeks of daily battles unlike any I have ever engaged in, I fell on my knees and confessed to God the source of my (intentional) distraction. How, I asked Him do I walk forward if?…. then, I listed them all. Every single doubt. Every single what if. Every single thought of loss or hurt I believed would surely come. As I raised the list of distracting thoughts before God, these words lifted from the pages of scripture : “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:6-7
And that was it. I kicked distraction to the curb and took the first steps – which led me to a local mall I had not visited in over a year. The store clerk in the shop I went to, let me know it would be about 45 minutes before what I purchased would be ready, so I walked the (near empty at 1:00 PM on a Saturday afternoon?) mall. I noticed a huge entryway into what appeared to be a museum. I walked in and was quickly greeted by James C. Horton, the owner of the Sights & Sounds Black Cultural Museum.
Names, faces and places of time gone by, covered the walls and filled tables below. There was so much to see. I picked up slave trade relics, deliberately touching every clang and clasp of rusted handcuffs that at one time shackled the wrists of men and women who may have been family members, and a neck collar small enough to fit a child’s, attached to a thick, weighty, steel chain. Early photographs and historical writings of Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, and The Emancipation Proclamation, pulled me forward.
It wasn’t until I reached the Buffalo soldiers and Tuskegee Airmen walls that I saw the children and teacher at the table. They eagerly colored, while answering the teacher’s questions: “And what were some of the jobs of The Tuskegee Airmen? Yes. That’s right. And Norris Connelly, what did he do?” What a lesson those young people were getting, I thought. A few minutes after reaching the teaching table, the teacher jumped out of her chair with: “He’s here. He’s here. The Tuskegee Airman is here. Here he is kids. Here comes Norris Connelly.” I halted my steps and looked at the kids’ and teacher’s excitement as two men wheeled in Norris Connelly donning his Tuskegee Airman cap and jacket. I too became giddy and walked closer to stand by the students.
Before long, the teacher and James C. Horton asked me to shake Mr. Connelly’s hand, stand next to him, get in the pictures, etc., etc. . Oh my, oh my! What had I walked into? Within minutes, the handful of us there, including (yeesss!!!) Tuskegee Airmen historian extraordinaire: Zellie Rainey Orr, author of “First Top Guns,” were talking, laughing, taking pictures for and with each other and thanking God for what He had done in the lives of Americans of African descent.
Ms. Zellie and I shared a conversation that I will not post here, but will let you know resulted in us embracing, encouraging one another, laughing and dancing at knowing what a blessing it was that God directed both of our steps to the gallery that Saturday morning. I purchased a copy of her book – “First Top Guns.” She autographed it and asked Tuskegee Airman Norris Connelly, who is 94 years strong, to also autograph it. She mentioned being amazed that he added “99th squadron” to his signature.
As I prepared to leave, James, the owner / curator, walked over to me and mentioned, “I am often asked why I don’t invite hundreds of people to visit on the weekends. Let me ask you a question,” he continued. “If there were a few hundred people here, would you have stayed?” I shook my head no. I would have walked the periphery of the museum, then left. He said, “That’s what I thought. God will send who He wants to be here.” With that, though I wanted to stay in the gallery longer, I was free to “Go.”
After returning to the shop to get what I’d gone to the mall to buy in the first place, I had one other stop to make – to pick up a few vegetables and pieces of fruit. I decided to go to Publix rather than The Farmer’s market – a choice I knew would hit me hard in the pocketbook, but the store was right across from the mall and I couldn’t wait to get home and tell somebody about the God moments I just experienced.
Standing at the register, looking into the shopping cart, and seeing that, as what oftentimes happens – too much stuff landed in it, I considered taking some items out, but needed them all, so removed nothing. The cashier rang my total. I looked at the register panel. It read. “99.” “Is that my total?,” I questioned the cashier. “99? Even?” She replied yes, and asked if I’d like to play that number. No, I thought. No, I don’t need to play that number.
There is no amount of money or luck that can compare with the conversation me and Ms. Zellie had, getting an autographed copy of “First Top Guns,” Norris Connelly’s (a member of the first class to graduate from the Tuskegee Airmen program and go overseas), inscribed signature – including 99th squadron, then seeing 99, again, as the final answer of the day.
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” Psalm 139: 7
There is nothing – nothing – nothing, that compares to God’s display of love, special revelation and confirmation of His presence in our lives. Honor Him. Love Him. Obey Him. Abide in Him. Walk with Him in the midst of your battles. Go where He tells you to go. The reward will be seeing Him in your 99’s.
Tell Your Story. Live Your Calling.