Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Who Fixed the Roof?

Some men came bringing to him (Jesus) a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.
Mark 2:3-4

The four guys were on a mission. Paralyzed and beyond the help of medical science, their friend needed help. The solution was simple; get the man to Jesus the healer.

The crowd that day was SRO - Standing Room Only.  To get their friend inside was impossible. Adamant and resourceful, the men took serious risks in order to accomplish their goal.

I wonder what Jesus, the home owner and the others inside thought when they heard the commotion up on the roof? Did they scramble for safety as building materials rained down on them? What was their reaction when a man on a pallet floated down from a hole in the ceiling and landed at Jesus’ feet? If they had hoped to see a miracle, they weren’t disappointed. Was there a spontaneous outburst of joy and celebration when the crippled man stood up healed? This story, with the happy ending, leaves one important, unanswered question. Who fixed the roof? In order to accommodate a man on a pallet, the hole would have been quite large.

If this scenario took place today at my house, how would I react? The sound of footsteps on the roof brings a few choice words to mind immediately: liability, lawsuits and homeowner’s insurance. A fall from a roof of any height can be disastrous. On one side of our house the drop is over twenty feet. That would be a nasty fall.

How would I feel is someone ripped off the shingles and proceeded to cut through the roof deck? Would I wait for the dry wall to start to fall before I fought my way outside to see who destroyed my home and why? Probably not. Would I be impressed with the faith and tenacity of the men who knew Jesus was their friend’s only hope; or would I be really upset that they damaged my home in pursuit of their cause? Would I be ecstatic to see a man healed or would I be absorbed with calculations of the cost of repairs, not to mention the inconvenience? I’m not sure I like my answers to those questions.

I’ve not found a biblical account of a miraculous roof repair. The bible is silent about the homeowner’s reaction to the destruction of his property. I doubt my first impression would have been very spiritual; sad, but true. If I can give a person in need of an encounter with Jesus, is it worth anything it might cost? It should be.

What is the chance that I’ll face a major home repair, such as a hole in my roof, in order to provide someone access to God? Probably very slim. Is there a strong possibility that an opportunity to share the gospel will arise that could be a major inconvenience or hardship if I choose to participate? When that happens, how will I react? Will I see it as an opportunity to invest in a life changing event for someone, or fume that my hard earned money will benefit someone else beside me? Uh oh, I think I hear footsteps on my roof.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I Need to Get a Life!

For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 
2 Corinthians 5:4

“I need to get a life!” We’ve said it and meant every word. Sometimes life is the pits. Situations blow up in our face. People hurt and disappoint us. We work hard, only to see that through no fault of our own, everything falls apart. Circumstances suck the life right out of us. We’re in a 2 Corinthians 5:4 experience.

James 4:4 describes life as, “a mist that appears for a while and then vanishes.” In view of eternity (which is now and not some future event) our time on earth is miniscule. Locked in a prison called Time, it feels so much longer. Paul wrote that something inside of us desperately wants to stage a jail break and escape the limitations imposed by mortality. If we believe there’s just got to me more, we’re correct. Our spirits yearn to return to their original condition, the way God created them to be in the beginning.

We were designed with unlimited and unimpeded fellowship with God in mind. Our job was to expand the garden until it covered the whole earth. Work was to be enjoyable and satisfying, not back breaking or an exercise in futility. In our fallen state, we’ve achieved great advances. Imagine how much further ahead we’d be now if God’s original design hadn’t been altered. Life would really be…living. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan and now we’re try to make the best of things in an imperfect world. How do we survive what feels like an existence and not a life?

David was someone who knew what it was like to have his life go from bad to worse and stay that way for an extended period. When Samuel arrived at David’s home to anoint the next king of Israel, Jesse, David’s father, left him in the fields with the sheep. Only when the prophet insisted was the young son summoned. David’s willingness to take on Goliath was met with criticism from his cowardly brother and skepticism from King Saul. He paid neither any attention and went on to win a great victory for Israel. David’s faithful service to his country won him the praise of the citizenry and the wrath of a jealous king. Forced to live as a vagabond, David spent years on the run in order to stay alive. Presented with opportunities to kill the mad king and end the senseless persecution, David declined. He wouldn’t touch the Lord’s anointed. As king, David faced insurrection from within his own family. His own blood attempted to steal his throne. Through it all he remained humble and ultimately prevailed over his adversaries. David could write the book on Hardship 101. How did he not give up and quit while under such intense pressure?

“If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.” Psalm 119:92-93

David’s key to success was to focus on God’s word, not his circumstances. His skill as a fighter; his power and position as king; his wealth – none of these could do for him what God’s word could. This is how David survived his 2 Corinthians 5:4 events. It worked for David and it can work for us too.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nic at Night

I have spoken to you of earthly things and you did not believe; how then will you believe of heavenly things? John 3:12

This verse presented an aha moment recently. In context, Jesus attempted to answer questions posed by Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. His statements confused the Pharisee. Jesus used natural situations to explain spiritual concepts, but Nicodemus couldn’t grasp the analogies. The Lord addressed a question I've wrestled with through this verse.

I’ve struggled to believe that God cares for the practical issues of my life: trade the market and not lose my shirt; deal with financial reversals; what to do with cars that need to be repaired/replaced; and so forth. The world contains about six billion people all with issues and conflicts that demand His attention. Do the nuts and bolts of my daily life really matter to Him? With this scripture, He confirmed that they do.

I found in Jesus’ statement a correlation between the ability to grasp heavenly concepts based on faith and confidence in God for the down and dirty everyday life things. God works in our lives as a means to train us for progressively greater levels of spiritual sensitivity. I realized that my lack of faith in Him for the natural issues of life hindered my ability to believe for the supernatural. In my mind they were separate entities; things here-and-now and things eternal. When compared to spiritual matters I considered the routine details of life trivial. Now I realize, life on earth is where we are trained to reign. My experiences here are meant to expand my ability to understand God’s goodness and how He works. The more I look for His help in the little mundane things, the better prepared I am to handle the big challenges that are sure to come.

I see this principle at work in the life of David. How could a young shepherd without a military background fearless take on Goliath the giant, a season warrior, and win? David learned to depend on God first while he cared for his father’s sheep. Goliath was just another enemy to dispose of. With such a big target, how could he miss? The lion and the bear were practice runs for Goliath, who was a dress rehearsal for battles against enemy armies. David’s faith and reliance on God for the routine aspects of life gave him a deeper revelation of God’s character. 

I feel a bit like “Nic at Night”. I wrestle with the concept that God's as interested in my day to day issues as He is with my spiritual growth and development. They're intertwined in ways I never considered. I am again gently reminded how much I really don’t know about my God. I’m glad I’ll have all eternity to figure it out. I’m going to need it.

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gnmcauley/3625753704/">Niall McAuley</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Seeds of Life

            Sometimes it’s the simple things we share with our children that have the most dramatic impact on their lives. Prior to and for a few years after the birth of our daughter, my husband and I were avid gardeners. Back in the early 70’s we faithfully read Rodale’s Organic Gardening and applied the lessons learned. We planted a wide variety of vegetables in the garden at our home and maintained an additional plot at a community site, specifically designated for corn. A move overseas followed by years of Florida living ended our gardening adventures.
            Our daughter is a confirmed urban dweller and prefers the city to the country. Two years ago, along with a few friends, she ventured into canning. Last summer she and her husband took the next step and secured a plot in one of Boston’s communal garden sites. In addition, a request came for any canning supplies we had in storage. We packed up our thirty-something year old Victorio Strainer and sent it off to serve our next generation of family gardeners. She was ecstatic and our old friend got a new lease on life.
            Patriot’s Day is a state holiday in Massachusetts. It also marks the running of the Boston Marathon and the unofficial start of the gardening season. My daughter usually grabbed breakfast and headed to the finish line to cheer the wheelchair and elite racers. Last year she called us all excited. “Turn on the TV and find the race coverage. I’m on the Jumbotron at the finish line.” We scrambled, searched sports channels and internet feeds, but alas, we missed her debut on the big screen.
            This year, instead of being at “their spot” at the finish line, my daughter was at the garden. When I called to check on her, I was unprepared for the sound of her tearful, frightened voice. She couldn’t reach her husband; calls to his phone went to voicemail. She didn’t know if he went to the race. If he had, he'd have been at “their spot,” the scene of the first bomb explosion. My heart sank. Thoughts of “what if” bombarded my mind. Fear attempted to grip my soul. Suddenly her voice changed. A text from her husband confirmed he was at home safe and sound. For our family, the day had a happier, although not completely up-beat ending.
            As a mother I can’t imagine the pain experienced at the death of a child. Our son-in-love is the son we never had. To lose him would’ve devastated all of us. Daily we pray angelic protection around them both, and the angels did their jobs that day. I wouldn’t have guessed that the seeds of gardening planted in my daughter’s life so long ago would bloom and not only produce a second generation gardener, but also would one day save her life.