Sunday, August 25, 2013

Proper 16

Jesus seems to break the Sabbath rules when he heals a woman in the synagogue. But is he violating the Sabbath? and How might he bring healing to you and your life?

Playing Hide and Seek

“Please, Lord, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord, and help me.” Psalm 40:13

Barb and I flew into Raleigh, North Carolina for the start of our vacation. We had never been to the state, and it was late. We collected our baggage and found the shuttle that would take us to the car rental agency. We were on vacation, so I decided to splurge and opted for a nice sized SUV for our time in NC. In a moment of mindless penny-pinching, though, I opted not to get a GPS unit for the car. What could go wrong, eh?

Nothing, of course; nothing went wrong until we left the parking lot of the rental agency. Asking where we could find a restaurant open for a quick bite before hitting the road just before midnight, the agent gave us some quick directions that I was able to just as quickly forget by the time I figured out how to turn on the headlights – which I didn’t need to turn on as they were on “automatic”. Who’d have thunk it!

Anyway, I quickly gave up looking for any sort of restaurant. Perhaps suspecting Yankees were lurking about the region, the entire area seemed to be in a perpetual blackout mode. The road signs were posted on three-by-five inch placards – printed with some sort of non-reflective paint, and the large markers above the roadway didn’t tell you what highway you were on; only what roads you might discover if you kept your eyes peeled while traveling upon that rain-slicked, unilluminated track of asphalt.

We drove for a few minutes when it became obvious I had no idea where I was, which way I was headed, or upon what road I might be traveling, so we turned around and went back to the airport. There, Barb and I switched seats and she drove while I studied and interpreted my Google Map instructions during the intermittent flashes of lightning and toll road cameras. Within an hour we found a town with street lights, an open motel, and a not-yet-closed fast food outlet. We were in heaven, so we holed up there for the remainder of the night!

We were in North Carolina for a week, and while we visited a number of sites and kept busy, I never did feel like I ever knew where we were. I am no Davy Crocket or Daniel Boone, but I have always been able to piece together maps and geography and find my way around – until now. I was feeling a bit embarrassed by it all until my brother in law loaned me his GPS unit.

Heading back to their house from the Atlantic coast, even the GPS got lost. Can you believe it? Even the latest and greatest satellite-connected brain on the market couldn’t figure how to get us from where we were to where we were going. Except for the part where I imagined us dying lost and forgotten in the rain-soaked wildernesses of North Carolina, I felt better knowing that I was not alone in my geo-challenged befuddlement.

Life is sometimes like that, though. We have skills and abilities, tools and technologies, and yet for all of that, we can still find ourselves lost and adrift in a sea of confusion.

I have gotten to the age where there isn’t enough time left to figure everything out for myself. When I get lost, I have learned to pull over and ask directions. Consequently, I stopped at a local speedy mart and asked the man at the counter how I might get to where I was headed, and he told me. “Ignore the signs,” he said, “and follow my directions.”

He was right. He drew out a map for me (ironically, on the back of my internet’s map directions), described the landmarks to watch for and, lo and behold, before you know it, we were safe and sound right where we belonged.

Once again, the Lord came to the rescue. God came to us in the form of a kindly clerk in a run-down pit stop deep in the heart of Dixie. Our God saves even those far away from this, our valley – and for that, we are thankful.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Great Fickle

“The hearts of the people are fickle...” Hosea 10:2

One of the challenges we face when all appears to be going well is that we may actually believe all IS well.

Visiting relatives in the Chicago area many moons ago my brother and I (and assorted cousins) were put into the rear-facing seat of my uncle’s station wagon. He and my aunt Ginny had picked us up at the train station and were hauling us to their house where we would camp out for a few weeks. It was a typical hot sticky mid-western summer’s day and back in those days they had no air conditioning in the cars. Well, they did. They called it “four by fifty” air conditioning – rolling down the windows as you zipped along at fifty miles per hour.

That didn’t help us in the back, of course. We had no side windows, we were faced to the rear, and any moving air was about a hundred degrees with the added humidity of a dozen perspiring bodies who shared our crew space.

But then, science kicked in. I had just finished seventh grade and I remembered learning about motion, air, and the mechanics of aircraft and how they fly. In a stroke of brilliance (and wanting to demonstrate that I actually HAD learned something in the school year just concluded) I offered a suggestion to my cousinly companions.

“According to modern science,” I said (and yes, that is what I really said), “the car moving forward is creating a vacuum behind it. If we open the rear window, the vacuum will help draw air into the car!”

This created a real sense of hope and excitement for all those crammed into the back seat, and so our cousin John rolled down the back window and – voila – hot air filled with the oily exhaust of our monster wagon flooded into the car, giving us immediate relief from any oxygen we might need to sustain life.

Needless to say, Cousin John quickly rolled the window back up, saving us all from a gruesome death, while the others pummeled me into a quivering mass of humbled pie.

Sometimes we do the best we can with what we have at hand, only to discover that the results are not what we had intended. We also learn that while our intentions might well be noble, that we are not judged by our intentions, but by the consequences of our actions.

Of course, we all had a great laugh out of our experience (once we had all returned to consciousness) and “according to modern science” became the unofficial motto of the summer.

Oh how fickle science can be – and yet, how dependable. The laws of science apply irrespective of our understanding and, if we are wise, we will learn not to take science for granted or assume we can figure out every outcome for every action. Science isn’t as much fickle as it is an equalizer and humbling force.

We will reap what we sow; if we sow in arrogance, we will reap abundant humility, but the good news is that if we plant the good seeds of love, patience, kindness, joy, happiness, and so on, we will more likely receive an abundance of good fruits.

Hosea tells those who are listening that if they plow up the hard ground of their hearts – living to please God – that God may well respond by showering them with the fruits of his own loving kindness.

I am actually happy that my best intentions and actions are sometimes turned on their heads. It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking one is more than what one actually is. Making mistakes, acknowledging those mistakes, and making amends for them as best one can, we make this a better place for those around us, as well as for those who will follow. And isn’t that why we’re here?

We’re here to take care of this wonderful garden we call earth and, more importantly, to take care of one another. We open the window hoping and praying for fresh air. If the air is toxic, admit the mistake, and close the window.

There are abundant opportunities in life to get caught in the Great Fickle, but there is good news in knowing that it is not God’s desire to pick us off, but to pick us up instead in this, our valley.