Space First Day Covers

John F. Kennedy – The NASA Space Program

Sometimes You Just Know

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:14 KJV

Well, it was another one of those moments when all the moons and planets in the solar system aligned. The time was right and it may be a long time before it ever happens again. You can’t sit still in moments like these; you have to act and act fast.

The Mega Millions and Powerball lotteries offered a total prize, added together if you won both, of about one billion dollars. I rarely play the lottery, but sometimes it is just too tempting not to take a chance.

Like so many others, I could think of all the good causes I could help support if I won. I could quit my job and volunteer for everything. Yes, I had a long list of good things that would happen if I won those prizes, or even one of them.

I decided to place, with my wife’s help, $6 or 3 sets of numbers for each lottery. With all those numbers I was hoping to get at least two in one row. That wouldn’t give you any prizes but it would be better than I had ever done before.

I decided, before I played this time, to do my praying a little differently. This time I prayed, “God, if I am where you want me to be, don’t let me get even close to winning anything.” With all the numbers my wife and I chose, we picked an exact total of just one number out of all the correct numbers.

There have been times in my life when I have felt like no one listened to me, especially God. I would “ask” God to help me through a problem or decision. I waited and waited and no magic lightning bolt streaked across the sky. I just couldn’t understand why He wasn’t answering. So I decided to figure it out myself.

Where does one begin when one enters the forest of indecision? Is the answer hidden in the branches of the trees or is it buried deep in the ground? Does it come in a plastic bag or is it inside a treasure chest? Will it be coded or will it be in plain, simple English that I can understand?

Often, impatience clouds the picture. Others’ advice, even though they have been through similar situations, doesn’t make any sense or it could never apply to me. No, I want things like loneliness, financial struggles, unfair treatment, getting overlooked at work, not having anyone understand my struggles, no one seeming to care that I am struggling, or a host of other things to just go away.

Then I take the next step. I blame others. I accuse others of not listening or understanding. Why can’t someone else make my problems go away, or at the very least, agree with my solutions to those issues? My problem now becomes a problem with others or with them not helping make my problem go away.

Sooner or later we come to recognize that most of the solution is right inside us. Most people don’t like to hear this. We want it to just go away. We don’t want to face it. It’s almost like we are afraid to try and conquer it. There are too many “what ifs.”

What if I can’t do it? What if someone, especially someone close to me, gets upset with me about what I think? What if it requires me to do something I’m just not comfortable doing? What if it requires me, not the other person, to change? What if I have to finally stand up for what I believe and not just go along with what others think?

One of the great things about making it to the other side of great troubles is a thing called experience. Experience not only helps you the next time, it builds a confidence in you that struggles can be conquered. Experience can help you help others in their time of difficulty. But probably the greatest gift of experience is that you sometimes just know what is going to happen next.

Knowing what will happen is not just a knowing that if you mix yellow and blue you get green. It’s not a definite answer. It’s knowing that there are steps to difficulties and solving them. There are chains of reactions. There are personalities that will follow certain patterns. You know that there are easy ways that most often don’t lead to the best solutions.

Your confidence strengthens to the point that you know God will get you through it. You learn that God understands you better than you even understand yourself and He knows the best way to get where He wants you to be. You learn not only to trust in this, you learn to believe it is a very real fact.

It may be hard to believe, but its earliest roots may have started around the time of our own Revolution. It was a perfect society. It was a land free of social classes, where common ownership ruled and everyone had an equal share in everything. Unlike capitalism, which grew on the principle that the harder you worked, the bigger the reward, this society assumed everyone would buy into its principles and work equally hard for the society they lived in.

This “new” philosophy of government was called communism. It never really caught on until the October Revolution in 1917 in Russia. By the Second World War, Russia had taken that form of government to a new level. Russia had become one of the world’s superpowers and people now began to take notice of this form of government.

Soon communism spread to the point that the rest of the free world began to feel threatened. Ironically, it was just a few months before the October Revolution that this President was born. Little did this young child know, but much of his Presidency would be aimed at this government called communism and at the Russians in particular.

The end of World War II would boost the United States into the ranks of one of the world’s superpowers, too. Our factories were booming and the minds of many of the citizens turned toward new inventions. These minds didn’t seem to be limited with thoughts of what we couldn’t do. No, if there was a problem, there was a determination that they would figure out an answer.

So, in 1946, the government formed NACA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. The goal was to take to the skies and use them, if you will, to protect us and defend us. Not even this new communism was going to take us by surprise. So our bright citizens started building supersonic jets like the Bell X-1. We would start with the sub-atmosphere realm, but into space was the eventual goal.

Our Bible story basically involves four characters. Only one of these characters plays a very minor role in our story, but I wanted to include him. Two of the other characters were women who lived together. The last character is a king.

The King is the only one the Bible names. To help our story move along, we will name the other three characters. Let’s just name our minor character Bob. For our two ladies, let’s name them Sally and Jane. Our King already has a name, so we don’t need to come up with a name for him.

The Bible tells us very little about these characters, with the exception of the king. They basically come into our story with vague descriptions. Let’s just think about them for a moment and think of the “what ifs” that might have gotten them to the point in our story.

First, our minor character, Bob. Bob was one of the king’s servants. I would assume that was a pretty prestigious position. After all, kings didn’t just let anyone into their presence. When you entered his presence you were usually in awe. He, with his job, was regularly in the king’s presence and he was getting paid for it.

Do you think Bob knew he would one day grow up and serve the king? I doubt it. Most of us don’t have a clue what we want to do when we are younger. Did the job require Bob to be well educated? The task mentioned in this story doesn’t seem to suggest it required any special talent, but it was the king’s court so Bob might have had to be the best of the best.

The President that preceded our President was not too keen on the space program. He thought it was much too expensive and the money could be better used to build a stronger defense. Besides, going into space would really serve no military advantage.

Back and forth went the United States and Russian space programs. We participated, but didn’t believe there were any real threats. Then Russia launched the Sputnik I satellite. We were embarrassed and scared. Could that satellite now see everything we were doing?

Then came an even bigger embarrassment: the Russians sent cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into space and returned him to earth safely. One thing became extremely clear: we were behind in the space race. To try and save face, if just a little, the United States, a couple weeks later, launched its first astronaut, Alan Shepard, into a suborbital flight. The Russians would launch a second cosmonaut, Gherman Titov into space three months later. It wouldn’t be until the following year that the United States would actually launch its first astronaut, John Glenn, into space.

Now let’s try to figure out something about our two girls. What was their story? Unlike Bob, Jane and Sally weren’t in very prestigious occupations. They were hookers. How did they ever decide on that occupation? Do you think they thought they would be selling their bodies for money when they were growing up? I really doubt it. Life had probably handed them a bad lot and they were just trying to make ends meet. Before they knew it, they were stuck in this occupation.

In our story, it doesn’t sound like Sally or Jane were married. They lived together. It doesn’t sound like they liked or trusted each other too much because the reason they were coming before the king was to have him settle a complaint. The king’s word was law and they understood his decision was final.

Sally and Jane each seemed to have a child about the same time. It seems like they were both proud to be mothers and both of them were keeping their child close to them, even when they slept. One night one of the babies died and that was where the problem began.

As their case came before the king, Jane was the one who explained what the issue was. Jane said she awoke and there beside her was the dead child. Jane said she knew her child and that was not her baby. She claimed that Sally, in the middle of the night, rolled over her own baby and killed it. She then stated that Sally must have gotten up while she slept and switched the babies. Sally shouted, “You liar! My baby is the one that lived.”

Back and forth went the shouting. The king was starting to get a headache. He called to Bob. He said, “Bob, go get the royal sword.” Silence filled the room and everyone wondered what was going on. Then the king commanded Bob, “Cut the living baby in half and give each of the mothers a half!

Everyone was shocked, especially Bob who was going to have to do the cutting. Sally very loudly commanded, “So be it. If I can’t have the baby then no one should.” Jane screamed, “No! No! No! Let her have the baby please! Please! Please! Please! Let the baby live!”

Russia’s first cosmonaut went into space on April 12, 1961, less than three months after John F. Kennedy was sworn into office. This newfound Russian strength would probably help lead them into believing that could place nuclear weapons to our south in Cuba, another country in which communism had moved into. Because of this, Kennedy would have to deal with them in the Bay of Pigs standoff, too.

Kennedy must have realized that the Russians were ahead of us in the space race. Kennedy did not want us to be second to anyone. He also realized the security risk of having some other country control space. He knew we were behind and we had to catch up.

Kennedy challenged the nation to rise to the occasion. He just didn’t set his sights on getting a little ahead of the Russians, he wanted to get way ahead of the world. So, on May 25, 1961, Kennedy went in front of a joint session of Congress and challenged them, and America, to put a man on the moon. Not only did he want it to happen, he wanted it to happen by the end of the decade.

One of the most amazing parts of the Kennedy challenge was that we had not even sent a man into space yet. Yes, we had sent Alan Shepard into a suborbital flight, but that really wasn’t space in my mind. Now he wanted us to go to the moon and back.

I really believe that when Kennedy issued a challenge he knew America would rise up to it. America might not have known it, but I believe he knew it. He saw what America could do during World War II and there was no doubt America would rise to the occasion again.

On July 20, 1969, with a little more than five months left on Kennedy’s goal, Neil Armstrong became the first man to step foot on the moon. Four days later, Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin would return safely to earth. Kennedy’s dream had been realized. Unfortunately, John F. Kennedy would not be around to see it. He was killed by an assassin on November 22, 1963.

Since Armstrong first walked on the moon, eleven other men have walked on the moon: Buzz Aldrin, Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, David Scott, James Irwin, John Young, Charles Duke, Eugene Cernan, and Harrison Schmitt. Guess what? They’re all Americans.

Solomon, the wisest of kings, knew that only a mother who loved her child so much would do whatever it took to save that child. He knew the real mother would see the child’s life for what it was: a precious gift. Yes, Solomon knew.

Solomon’s verdict was to give the child to Jane. He knew she would use her wisdom and her love to guide that child to a successful life. She had seen Solomon’s example. I’m sure Bob was glad, too.

Often we know the right thing to do. The answer is right inside us. We are scared of the work it might require or the people it might offend. We want the easy way out. We want to come out smelling like a rose.

Very few tough situations have easy answers. I believe we would all like it better if we could pick all the right lottery numbers to give us that easy life. I believe all of us would like to just believe the world is a safe place and we don’t need to invest in the security of something like a space program. I believe we would all like everyone to believe that it is our baby.

Life and decisions are not always easy, In fact, sometimes they are just down right tough. God didn’t ask us to take the wide, easy path. No, God said the narrow, harder path is the one he wanted us to travel.

Prayer: Dear Mighty Father, Sometimes you build in me a knowledge of which way to go. Often it’s not the popular path but the one that makes people unhappy. Please give me the courage to stay, even though it may be unpopular with others. Amen.

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