Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lightning Rod

Photo courtesy Erik Thorson 2013


“Stop trying to fit in when you were born to stand out.”

-From the movie What a Girl Wants
I've never seen this movie, but I read this quote somewhere the other day when I was feeling just a little bit left out and sorry for myself. Some days it's easy to forget that the path the Lord Jesus forged ahead of us is not a common road. For those that follow the Master, it sometimes feels like we're trudging alone across an endless desert or lurching through a bewildering jungle.

More often than not, we're lightning rods, attracting unwanted attention and controversy as we find ourselves in the midst of hair-raising storms. Getting burned is no fun.

When Jesus walked this earth, He did definitely stood out. Not in a desperate, look-at-me sort of way, like people who dress and act to attract attention. He rose above the crowd because He didn't follow them. He wasn't attuned to the loudest voice in the group. He only listened to one voice:

His Father's. 

In the building political and ethnic tension that gripped the Middle East at His first coming, Jesus was certainly a lightning rod. The fate of humanity rested upon the decisions Jesus would make as He grew to manhood and approached Golgotha. 

He could have stopped the march to the cross at any moment. He could have given in to the seduction of the devil in the wilderness. He could have refrained from raising the ire of the rulers. When the soldiers came to arrest Him at Gethsemane, He could have allowed His disciples to fight for Him. But He stopped them, saying:

"Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father,
and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?
Matthew 26:53  

Jesus knew what He had to do. He had to obey His Father in heaven. That did not make Him a rebel, a hippie, or a subversive figure. It made Him an obedient Son. 

Throughout history, those who have followed Him have stood out from the crowd. It has often been a painful, lonely walk. Sometimes it has been a brutal one. 

But the path upward always ends at the holy city. All who long to be united with their Master will be welcomed into the new Jerusalem with open arms. The heartaches and and trials will be over. There will be no more tears, no more fears, and no more pain.

And we'll never feel left out again.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Called to Care

Photo courtesy Erik Thorson 2013
Bear one another's burdens,
and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
Galations 6:2

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement,
Galations 5:14

It happened several times this week. I was busy getting through my own day when I received news of someone dear to me who's walking down a particularly difficult path this new year.

My response? A quick prayer upwards as I barrel on through my chores. Somehow that doesn't seem enough in these storm-tossed days. Granted, I have a lot on my own plate. But that should give me more compassion for those who are pelted with trials. 

I know what it's like. Over the years, I've learned that life's struggles and joys wash in and out like an ocean's tide. We have had years of insane trials that threatened to drown me. During those times, dear friends stayed by our sides, lifting desperate prayers in our behalf. I understand how fragile life can be, how quickly we can be in over our heads. 

But then the waves recede. I am in a better place than in recent years since our son's accident. I could spare a little extra time in prayer to help carry the burdens for someone who's in danger of getting washed out to sea.

That's what God has called us to do. We're not supposed to be lugging our troubles down parallel paths as we nod to each other in passing like ships in the night. We're supposed to be sharing the load. 

Isolation is the deadly enemy that separates us from fellowship and keeps us from holding each other up when the tide is high. We need to check up on each other, listen to one another, and love each other as much as we love ourselves.

That's a lot of love.

As God reminded me recently, activity does not equal achievement. May God grant us the wisdom to separate the important from the urgent. May we be sensitive to the needs of others and to the call of the Spirit of God to care.

do not merely look out for your own personal interests,
but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:4


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Outside the Comfort Zone

Photo courtesy Erik Thorson copyright 2013

The sky is so vast,
I am so small.
The river is swift,
I am so weak.
You dance on the clouds.
You walk on the water.
Call me to You, Lord.

We once rescued a lone feral kitten from the bushes. Her mother had killed the rest of the litter. The little one that was left wasn't ready to be weaned, so I had to bottle feed her until she was old enough to eat solid food. 

She grew to be a beautiful tabby/Siamese mix with a striped face, gorgeous brown feet and ears, and long, soft fur. We named her Silky, and she soon ruled the house with typical Siamese attitude. She was so protected and adored, it was six years before even we let her outside for the first time. By then she appeared to have no memories of her previous life in the bush.

Her first experience with the outdoors was hilarious. She slinked cautiously out the door and and stepped distastefully through the grass. Then she was hit with the enormity of Outside. This was not the fun place she had admired from the living room window.

This new room was tall.  

Overpowered by its bigness, she made herself as low and small as possible, in case the sky fell down upon her. 

The events of the last week have had me looking to the sky a little more often. It's made me realize just  how really big God is. He caused an asteroid to pass by the earth, and He made sure it didn't hit us. But He did allow a meteorite to enter the atmosphere the same day, just to remind us of His twin attributes of power and patience.

Lately He's been reminding me of His all-encompassing control of the universe, a super-power He restrains for the love of the world He created. He is so very much more than I can even begin to fathom. Much of the time, I'm occupied within my own comfort zone. Every once in a while, though, I step out of my safety net and catch a glimpse of His limitlessness.

It's breathtaking.

It makes me want to get very low. Not because I'm afraid of Him, but because I'm in awe. It seems the only fitting response to such a King is to bow in recognition of my smallness in His presence.

Total surrender seems an appropriate response to His majesty. I thank God that He is such a God of mercy, as well. Truly, there is no one like Him, the perfect habitation of grace and truth.

Who is like You among the gods, O LORD?
Who is like You, majestic in holiness,
Awesome in praises, working wonders?
Exodus 15:11

Friday, February 15, 2013

Warning Shot

The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven,
burning like a torch,
and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters.
Revelation 8:10

It came without warning today. A ten-ton meteorite entered the earth's atmosphere and exploded near the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. The sonic boom it created shattered one million square feet of glass. Almost 1,000 people were injured by the event. Most of the injuries were caused by glass shards. 

The meteoroid caused much fear throughout the region. Terrified elderly women pronounced that the end of the world had arrived. It's more likely a warning shot, though, a reminder that Earth is a fragile place to live; a planet awaiting judgment. 

But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire,
kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
2 Peter 3:7 

People have carted around "The End Is Coming" signs around for centuries. We've heard the message so long and from so many strange sources that it's become the object of scorn.  God's unwillingness to bring judgment upon us has been interpreted as weakness. 

But God always keeps His promises. All of them. Even the ones we don't like.

Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way,
what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God,
because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning,
and the elements will melt with intense heat!

Coincidentally, last night I read an article in Biblical Archaeology Review written by Steve Collins, the director of the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project in Israel. The article was entitled "Where is Sodom? The Case for Tall el-Hammam." Tall el-Hammam is located near the Dead Sea in the plain described by the Bible.

Though not conceding the accuracy of the Biblical story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Collins used the geography described in the event to draw educated conclusions as to the probable site of Sodom. His excavations of the site have yielded startling evidence of a horrific conflagration there.

The archaeological dig uncovered floors of a structure that was buried beneath almost three feet of dark gray ash. He described the debris as looking as if it had been put in a Cuisinart. The ash was mixed with pottery fragments, mudbricks, miscellaneous objects, and human bones. Found in the debris were pottery sherds with a glassy surface and bubbled in a "frothy" magma, indicating brief exposure to temperatures far in excess of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The pictures that accompanied the article were sobering.

Collins notes that in Genesis 19:24, the catastrophe is said to have come "out of the heavens."

I don't know how, or even when, the world will end. I can only read the Bible and know it's coming. 

This warning shot the earth received today is a reminder that God will bring this rebel planet into accountability one day. The age of grace will end and we will all stand before His awesome power. It's a serious wake-up call to get our eyes off ourselves and look to the skies, not in fear, but in reverence and awe. Since the day of His coming could be any time, what kind of people should we be? What should we be spending our time, energy, and resources on each day?

Where will we be on the day He calls for us? 

Today He still reaches out to His beloved world. He does not withhold the fire because He is weak or non-existent, but because He loves us so very dearly. 

But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens
and a new earth,
in which righteousness dwells.
2 Peter 3:11-13

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Activity, Achievement, and the "Wizard of Westwood"


Never Mistake Activity for Achievement.
-John Wooden (1910-2012)

The first time I heard this quote was during a basketball game on television. I don't remember who was playing, but it was a frenetic game, with a lot of activity as the opposing teams battled for the ball. But no one was making any baskets. With a chuckle, the commentator threw out this quote from John Wooden, "The Wizard of Westwood," legendary coach of the UCLA team.

I was struck by the visual lesson posed in that moment. The players were working hard, running all over the court, expending great energy with no results as they strained toward an ever-elusive goal. Their lack of success wasn't due to a lack of effort. They simply appeared to be unable to hit the basket.

Activity does not equal achievement.

I know I've been somewhat MIA lately on this blog. The new year has hit with a bang, and I've suddenly been overwhelmed with work as new and exciting changes loom on the horizon. Of course, I still have the daily challenges of caregiving and running a certified family home, as well.

Strangely enough, as the workload has increased, so has my longing to do less and listen more for God's voice. I have no energy, time, or inclination to go anywhere unless I see the distinct footprints of my Savior walking ahead in the path. I don't want to simply run around on the court. I want to hit the goal.

I press on toward the goal for the prize
of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:14

It occurred to me the other day how much I had wish I had written less and read more; spoken less and listened more; thought less about things and prayed more about them. And now the questions abound: What is the next step? How does God want me to achieve the goal set before me? How does this affect my teammates, and how can we work together?

As I work through the changes in the next months, I plan on posting on Tuesdays and Fridays. Be sure to check CMADDICT.COM each Wednesday for my devotional Slightly Obsessed. I'll continue to be posting in the Reviews and News sections as I'm able. You can now sign up on the blog to receive an automatic notification when a new post is up. Your patience and prayers are much appreciated as the celebration of life at 'Til Dawn Comes grows. Thanks!