Last month, Janet and I took a road trip to upstate New York for a family wedding and then headed to Manchester, VT for several days. We returned home through Niagara Falls, New York. Janet had never been to Niagara Falls and, frankly, I was looking forward to getting back there. It’s been almost 60 years since Mom, Dad, my brother, Doug, and I were there for a short vacation. In fact, our youngest brother, Ken, was too young to even make the trip with us.
Much of the area has changed but some things remained the same. Janet and I stayed at the Red Coach Inn, a famous inn from the 1920’s – right across the street from the white water rapids that turn into the American Falls. We walked over and watched as millions of gallons of water poured over the falls every second. It was amazing.
The next day we did the regular tourist stuff. We went down to see the Cave of the Winds. That is a wonderful trip to the base of the falls, by elevator, and then walking a path and stairs built of wood to see the Bridal Falls (between the American and Canadian Falls) up close and personal. Then we went on the Maid of the Mist – a boat that takes its passengers right up to the base of the large Horseshoe Falls – better known as the Canadian Falls.
While Janet and I were near the base of the falls, I had a flashback to when I was a boy. Janet and I were standing in virtually the exact same spot I remembered as a child. While the steps and pathway have to be rebuilt each year, it appears that the configuration remains virtually unchanged – even after all these years. I distinctly remember where Mom and Dad were standing as we looked up at the falls.
Standing there, you can’t help but behold the awesome power of God. In fact, I don’t see how anyone could doubt the existence of God once they saw the falls up close.
Anyway, I have always remembered something else about our visit there when I was a boy. Apparently, when our family arrived in town, in the early 1960’s, our hotel room had been given away. The place was sold out and we were going to be without a place to stay for the night. I think the hotel manager felt sorry for us and finally found us a room – a bigger, more expensive room than we had ever stayed in.
It had a king-size bed for Mom and Dad, a fireplace in the middle of the room with a chimney that extended all the way to the vaulted ceiling and several sofas on the other side of the room where Doug and I were to sleep. We were excited about being at the falls. But what really kept me awake was watching my Dad that night.
I’m sure that he thought Doug and I were asleep but that wasn’t the case. I was awake and I remember Dad was walking around – he couldn’t sleep. He was agitated and softly speaking with Mom. She was trying to sleep but he was worried about how we were going to pay for the room and still continue our vacation. It was the first time that I had ever seen Dad that upset – although I knew that we didn’t grow up with a great deal of money.
In any event, the room was $38 a night – far more than the $12 average cost of a room in those days. It really bothered me to see Dad that way. Obviously, I remembered it all these years – it made such an impact in me. Throughout the years, there would be other times that I would see Dad worried about something but it was a powerful moment that I recalled when Janet and I were at Niagara Falls.
I had some trouble deciding what verse to use for tonight. At first I was going to write about the awesome nature of God in the midst of all that beauty and powerful water. But the more I thought about it, I more I realized that what we all need to hear tonight is what to do in times of fear and worry.
So…. tonight’s verse comes to us from the prophet Isaiah who tells us, in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” I wish that my faith had been strong enough in those days to try and comfort Dad. But, I was pretty young and I don’t know that Dad, at that point in his life, would have turned to God for comfort. I’m not so sure that he ever regained the faith that he had as a young boy himself.
My encouragement this evening is that our Father wants us to turn to Him when we are stressed, worried or fearful. But many times, we just don’t make the move when we are so concerned about ourselves. My prayer is that we will have the sense to turn to God with outstretched palms and seek the peace that comes from being in communion with Him when times get tough. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…