Thursday, November 17, 2011

Do It Again, God!

The following encounter normally occurs not where I was in Florida but farther south along Alligator Alley!

A couple days after driving to Florida to attend a family funeral, I ate lunch with several of my relatives. The restaurant overlooked a cove on Tampa Bay—a perfect opportunity to hone my outdoor photography skills. A blue heron perched on the roof of a boat pier held my attention. However, unbeknownst to me, seldom-seen marine mammals lurked nearby.

The restaurant manager pointed out a manatee in the waters below. I focused on it from my lookout spot in the open-air lounge on the roof. As I hurried down to the dock to shoot close-ups, a stingray slid across the water. I knew at that moment what I was experiencing could only be explained as a God thing—seeing two rare sea creatures within minutes of each other.

Because I had driven to Florida from Texas, I decided to stay in the “Sunshine State” longer than originally planned. A couple hours after finishing lunch and saying goodbye to everyone, I started my drive to the east coast to visit other family members and friends.

I hopped on State Road 70 and settled in for the three-hour trek across Florida. My mind often wanders on such drives where long stretches of highway pass without seeing another vehicle. That Saturday was no exception. I recalled a story I recently heard by a well-known inspirational speaker. While in Africa, she went on a safari. She passionately described graceful animals gallivanting into view. Awestruck by the splendor of the moment, she said to God, “Do it again.” And He did, bringing more displays of grandeur her way.

I thought about the manatee and stingray. And so, I too said, “Do it again.” As I slapped my palms on the steering wheel for emphasis, I could feel a smile spreading across my face. I didn’t know how God could possibly top my earlier encounters with the marine life.

An hour into the drive I passed a herd of grazing cattle. Fixing my eyes back on the pavement in front of me, I saw something large in the distance moving low to the ground. Lumbering across the road was an alligator.

Tapping the car brakes, I unzipped the case on the seat next to me and started tugging at the camera inside. By the time my Mazda Miata came to a complete stop in the middle of the highway, the alligator had made its way into the grass. I struggled frantically to free the camera before the car that was at least a mile behind me drew near. After removing the normal lens, I grabbed the zoom, twisted it into place and aimed the camera. Click. Click. Click.

The reptile swaggered away from me with its shoulder muscles rippling. Viewing those three back-to-back pictures, I noticed the alligator’s tail swishing from side to side as though I were thumbing quickly through the edges of an animated flip book.

My alligator friend on Florida State Road 70 west of Lake Okeechobee

That evening I arrived at my aunt’s condo on Singer Island. Relaxing on her sixteenth-floor balcony, I soaked in the breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway. The beauty of dusk and the vibrant sunset made me thankful for all God created. It was then I remembered my earlier request for God to “do it again.” Little did I know He had more in store.

Two days later I traveled to Palm City to spend Independence Day with old friends before heading home to Texas. That afternoon a friend and I lounged just inside her patio doors looking out on the Saint Lucie River. The wooden dock extending beyond her property added ambience to the lazy, humid summer day.

“Look! Hurry!” she exclaimed. My heartbeat quickened as she directed my gaze to a fin disappearing below the water’s surface. She pointed. “There’s another one.”

I grabbed my camera—zoom lens already attached—and ran to the dock. With the naked eye, I saw a bite-size chunk missing from a dolphin’s dorsal fin.

I shared my do-it-again story with other friends arriving to watch the fireworks from her backyard.

God does indeed bless with wondrous gifts. He grants desires in ways too overwhelming for the human mind to make happen. Surely He delights in seeing joy on the faces of His children.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” - Psalm 37:4