Morningly (re-posted for National Coffee Day)

I am not a morning person. Really not a morning person. I am a night owl to the bone. Marrow.

Unfortunately for me, life hasn’t been the most accommodating to my body-clock. About the time my REM cycle hits deep-and-satisfying, my alarm clock begins to chirp and the demands of motherhood, employment, and academia trump my biological rhythm once again.

So, I sit here tonight (or should I say today? It’s 1:00 am, after all), enjoying the irony of a newly-discovered word. I spotted it on a billboard last week, en route to the Atlanta airport, and it made me giggle. Plastered beside the image of an enormous donut were these terrific words:

Made Fresh Morningly

Morningly? Is that even a legitimate word? I admit to jumping through some mental hoops while searching for context and verification. The light came on when I realized that day becomes daily… I suppose morning could present itself as morningly by the same token? Being a night person, my very next thought was – of course – whether the same thing could be done with evening. Eveningly. Sounds weird. But night does become nightly, so there you go.

And if donuts can be Made Fresh Morningly, how much more wonderful it is to realize that God’s mercies are new morningly, as well (even though they come far too early for a late-night-thinker like me). Great is His faithfulness!

As crazy as it sounds, this word makes me smile at mornings, redeeming some of the unpleasant memories of dreams interrupted before the sun begins to shine (which, by the way, is completely unfair – if I have to wake up at dark-o-thirty, Mr. Sun, so should you). Unlike the word morning, which in my experience is never a good thing, morningly is positive. Upbeat. Full of promise. Akin to words like merrily and joyfully. Something to look forward to.

Eveningly, my energy level will continue to spike and I will fight hard for each and every wink, because that, my friends, is just how I roll.

But as long as my coffee is Made Fresh Morningly (and strongly), and as long I am met with the grace of a forgiving Father at the start of each new day, I simply can’t complain. (I can hit the snooze button, though.)

Great is Your faithfulness, God!

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Construction Zone

Even those on a Trek to the Manger can expect to encounter a Construction Zone now and then…

I know all about Construction Zones. As the wife of a road builder, I have been to and through all sorts of highway and bridge Construction Zones over the years.

I know the difference between concrete and cement, and I can tell whether a road has been paved in concrete or bituminous asphalt.

I’ve seen road surfaces being milled and bridge decks being poured.

I recognize a core sample when I see one and I know that when testing with a nuclear density machine, you’re supposed to wear a radiation-detection badge (I know, because a few of those have ended up in the laundry by mistake).

I’ve seen roads and bridges in various stages of a contract, and when it comes to Construction Zones, well… you might say I know just enough to be dangerous.

In Bible study today we agreed that our group gatherings look pretty much like a Construction Zone. In various stages of construction, each one of us is a distinctly unfinished project (some of us might even say we’re a real piece of work).

Some of us are entering uncharted territory. The road God is building in us doesn’t even exist yet! We might be able to see the bright paint sprays of the utility companies who have marked what’s hidden underground, but where we’re going, there have been no roads before.

Some of us are freshly graded earth, ready for the Paver to make us into a usable roadway.

Some of us are being resurfaced – getting a face-lift, you might say – because the years have left their mark, but there is so much more life left for us to live.

Some of us are all rebar and concrete forms – not looking so much like a road just yet, but being equipped with a solid foundation so that when the deck is poured, we’ll be able to handle any load God might bring our way.

Some of us are being signed and striped. We’re looking pretty darn good, but there are directions we still need and pavement markings that we require in order to continue safely down the road God has put us on.

The thing about Construction Zones is that, with very few exceptions, no one likes them.

Seriously.

It’s messy. It’s bumpy. And it’s really, really slow.

I suppose those doing the work itself would disagree, but for those who just want to pass on through, Construction Zones stink.

This is not unlike what happens in our Bible study group, or in any group of those whose lives are perpetually under construction. With very few exceptions, watching the construction of others is like driving through the Zone…

It’s messy. It’s bumpy. And it’s really, really slow!

Sometimes we get impatient and take a detour, to avoid the construction (and those being constructed) altogether.

Sometimes we wait for what seems like forever in order to move past the Zone that others are in, because when one life gets messy in a community of believers, everyone feels it.

Sometimes the Construction Zones of others keep us from doing things we want to do, on a timeline of our own choosing. This can frustrate, anger and disappoint us, no matter how understanding we try to be.

Today, try to think about those whose work is the Construction Zone… What they do while we’re feeling inconvenienced is to create something new.

Something better. Something more efficient. Something safe.

God Himself is in the Construction Zones of our lives, making something better. Something more beautiful. Something He can use. Something others need.

Yes, the Zone irritates those who navigate it during construction, but for those who are hands-on in the mess, the progress being made is measurable and significant.

We are becoming more and more like Jesus with every pass of the Paver, with every passing day.

No matter how you feel about what God is constructing in and around you, rest assured – the finished product will be well worth the wait.

Resolving to MAKE ROOM

“Sprinkles” (Trek to the Manger, chapter 12) may look lovely on cupcakes, but they can be a real obstacle to peace and faithfulness for the follower of Christ.

Typical America 'Two-car Garage' (detached type)

Image via Wikipedia

In one gloriously productive day, my husband and I succeeded at clearing out one stall in our garage. It wasn’t the first time we had spent hours in pursuit of empty space, but we were thrilled to finally be able to park a car INSIDE the garage (it did help that we finally have a car small enough for our modest space)!

We hauled away a van load of cast-offs to Goodwill that day – things which we had accumulated over the years that had long since either lost their usefulness or had simply been outgrown. Some of what we gave away hadn’t done time outside of the garage in an embarrassingly long period of time.

We piled up a lot of trash during our cleaning frenzy. Some we can recycle. Some cardboard boxes we gave away to a friend who needs them for an upcoming move. Tomorrow a whole bunch of bags and boxes will find their way to the curb for the garbage truck to haul them away. Some of the things that have taken up space in our garage for years are good for nothing but the trash heap.

We filled up one box with items that should have been in the house, being put to good use. I brought in a collection of home videos filmed over the past 17 years that had been quietly collecting dust, some office supplies that will save a trip to the store, a few books worth adding to the keepers on the shelf and some brand new toys that we had never given as gifts. Some of what we hold onto gets lost in the graveyard of useless things when we amass large quantities of stuff that we just can’t keep track of.

More isn’t always more. Sometimes more is just too much.

I don’t always subscribe to the tradition of making promises to myself in the New Year. Resolutions, in my limited experience, tend to guilt me within weeks of making them rather than spurring me on to good works.

I had no intention of falling into that trap again – that is, until I pulled my car into the garage for the first time last week. The timing was incredible! Our work day was terrifically warm for December, and dry so that we could spill out into the driveway as we sorted and stacked and separated our excesses. But even as we turned the key in the ignition, snow began to fall – softly at first, but eventually resulting in an uncharacteristically messy winter storm. A winter storm that my little car didn’t have to endure because we had made room for it in the space where it belongs.

So I’ve decided that there really is just one thing tugging at me as the New Year looms again. I’m tired of seeing so much stuff crammed into places where it simply does not belong.

Trash and junk and outgrown toys in the garage, where the car ought to be.

Unworn and poorly fitting clothing in the closet, where the things I actually will wear ought to be.

Calendars and schedule books littered with tedious meetings and pointless commitments, where satisfying and rewarding activities ought to be.

Worries and stressors and disturbing emotions taking up head and heart space, where joy and direction and clarity most definitely ought to be.

This year, I’m resolving to pass along to others the things that I have that they need.

This year, I’m resolving to throw away those things that are not worth keeping and are not worth giving away.

This year, I’m resolving to put to good use those things that I knew I would need someday.

This year, I’m resolving to MAKE ROOM in my house, in my head, in my life for that which really ought to be there instead.

And who knows? Maybe God has been patiently waiting on me to do just that.

After all, how can He pour new life and living water into the space within when it’s already jam-packed-full of something other than His very best for me?

A car belongs in its garage. That’s what the space is for.

I can’t wait to see what God has in mind for the space we’re about to create… in me!

Kingdom-Mapping 101

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like… yeast that a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” (Matthew 13:33 NLT)

Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?

A small amount of yeast is mixed into the dough, where the yeast acts on the fermentable sugars, turning them into the gas – carbon dioxide. This causes the dough to expand – or rise – as the gas forms pockets or bubbles. When the dough is baked, those air pockets ‘set’, giving the loaf of bread a soft and spongy texture. Yummy, right? 

And a beautiful picture of the Kingdom! I have always thought of this parable as fairly simple to unpack… God’s Kingdom, though small, is powerful! And it is meant to be added to the stuff of the world – not kept in a jar on the counter, or holed up in a church building somewhere. That’s how it does its work! It acts on the stuff of the world and changes it! God’s Kingdom stimulates growth and changes outcomes. Instead of coming out of the oven crispy & flat, that which is touched by the Kingdom of Heaven rises and grows and emerges soft, fluffy and fragrant! A delight to the senses! Something we can enjoy and share. Can’t you just smell it?! 

But, friends… there is much, much more to yeast (and the Kingdom of Heaven) than bread alone!

Did you know that in the baking process of bread, once yeast has converted the sugars into gas bubbles and caused the dough to rise, the yeast dies. Its work is… Finished. When that loaf comes out of the oven, the yeast is gone, but its fingerprints are all over the loaf. What does THAT say about the Kingdom of Heaven?

You don’t have to go far in a Google search on yeast before you stumble onto what is perhaps the most compelling Kingdom insight yet. I was a few web pages into yeast when I came across this quote from a researcher named Dr. Francis Collins – a name that rang a bell for me, by the way.

He said: The yeast genome is closer to the human genome than anything completely sequenced so far.” 

What does that mean? Well, a genome is all of a living thing’s genetic material. It’s the entire set of hereditary instructions for building, running and maintaining an organism, and for passing life onto the next generation. 

Francis Collins was saying that the yeast genome – the DNA of yeast – is closer to human DNA than any other organism studied up to the point of this quote, in 1996. Because of the similarities, studying the genome of yeast has opened up an entirely new area of science in which yeast and its genetic structure offer valuable clues toward understanding the workings of more advanced organisms, including humans.

Yeast models are being used today in the study of diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Yeast is being used to test experimental drugs and is helping scientists learn more about cellular processes.

When I heard Francis Collins speak at a conference about seven years ago, I was struck by his childlike enthusiasm for genetics. I know – it’s as weird as it sounds! He spoke for almost an hour and a half to a group of youthworkers whose attention spans are – I promise you – NOT that long! He was actually giddy as he told the story of his experience as the lead scientist on the Human Genome Project – an effort that led top genetic scientists to ‘unravel’ and map human DNA in the same way he had done with yeast in the 1990s. He even took out his guitar at one point and sang us part of his talk! He was actually pretty awesome!

Dr. Collins, it turns out, has been appointed by President Obama as the Director of the National Institutes of Health – this is his current base of operations. But perhaps most interesting is that Francis Collins is as giddy about his faith in Jesus Christ as he is about genetics! His studies into yeast and human genomes changed his life – and his heart – and he write a book called The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief so that others who struggle with reconciling science with faith might have the benefit of his insights.

All of this is to say… What if?

What if the Kingdom of Heaven, here on earth, is like yeast from Francis Collins’ perspective – possessing the entire set of instructions for building, running and maintaining life; even passing life onto the next generation – when we, like yeast, have finished our permeating work, leaving only fingerprints on the loaves we’ve left behind?

What if the Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, offering valuable clues to the full workings of God’s plan – beyond what we can see with our eyes?

We can’t fully grasp the entirety of God’s Kingdom – heaven and eternity are beyond our understanding – but… the Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast! And yeast is close enough to human DNA to shed light on what scientists seek to understand. Maybe yeast is close enough to the Kingdom of Heaven to shed light on what we seek as well.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve often wished that God would give you a map for understanding life. Some of us have even tried to read the Bible that way, hoping for a MapQuest kind of experience, where we can see our origination and destination points – point A and point B – and with a click of the mouse, we can have turn-by-turn directions from today to eternity (complete with audio, if you like – and she can even have a British accent)!

Let me know if your experience has been different, but God hasn’t mapped the Kingdom of Heaven for me in that way. My experience with Kingdom-Mapping looks a lot like what Dr. Collins and his cohort have done with, yes… Yeast. Not so much a road map; more like a genome map.

A genome map is a set of landmarks that tell people where they are, and help them get to where they want to go. But where road maps chart well-known territory surveyed with incredible precision, a genome map is a map of a new frontier. Some parts of a genome map include great detail while other parts are relatively uncharted territory. It may turn out that a few landmarks appear in the wrong place or are the wrong distance from other landmarks, but over time, as exploration continues, the map becomes more accurate. More detailed. A genome map, like your life and mine, is a work in progress.
(http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org)

What if Jesus’ teachings are meant to be landmarks on a map of the Kingdom of Heaven? Not as much road map – precise and measured – as genome map – experiential and in-progress?

For example, from  the parables in Matthew chapter 13, we learn that:

The Kingdom of Heaven starts small – like a mustard seed – but once it takes root, there will be no stopping it! Landmark #1

The Kingdom of Heaven is growing at God-ordained speeds and in God-selected shapes, sizes and colors! No one but God knows what the seed will produce – you can’t tell by looking at the seed. Our work is simply to watch it grow. Landmark #2

The Kingdom of Heaven, like yeast in the dough, is acting on people and in systems and situations to make them better. To help them rise above. Landmark #3

And… the Kingdom of Heaven is diverse and filled with variety in people and personalities, all with different histories and gifts and crosses to bear. It isn’t our job to decide who’s in and who’s out… God has a plan, and it all gets worked out in the end. For today – for you and me – it’s enough to be caught in His nets! Landmark #4

In this way, using Jesus’ teachings as landmarks for Kingdom-Mapping, the Kingdom of Heaven really is like yeast – giving us new ways to learn and connect with realities we have yet to begin to understand. With each newly discovered landmark, the detail on our Kingdom map grows, leading us into a clearer picture of what God Himself must see.

A quick scan of related websites can provide a sort of yeast-mapping crash course; in a sense, Jesus’ parables and the whole of scripture comprise a life-long course of study – call it Kingdom-Mapping 101. Biblical teachings and our own experiences become landmarks on this Kingdom map of ours.

Some landmarks, like the parables in Matthew chapter 13, may show up on your map and on mine, but depending on how we each understand the teachings, we may place them differently on our own maps. My Kingdom map isn’t exactly like yours, because I also have personal encounters with God and the Holy placed on my map that you don’t know anything about! And my experiences with people and challenges in life also produce landmarks unique to me, which exist on my Kingdom map beside the truths I’m learning from God’s inspired Word.

When you tell your Kingdom stories, some of those end up on my kingdom map, too – because you help me learn when you take the time to share.

I have to wonder whether Jesus’ listeners were telling the truth when Jesus asked, “Have you understood all this?” and they answered, “Yes.” But what Jesus says next sounds just like yeast and brings the work of Dr. Francis Collins to mind:

“He said to them, Therefore every teacher and interpreter of the Sacred Writings who has been instructed about and trained for the kingdom of heaven and has become a disciple is like a householder who brings forth out of his storehouse treasure that is new and [treasure that is] old [the fresh as well as the familiar].” (Matthew 13:52 AMP)

May the yeast of the Kingdom produce treasure for you – the fresh as well as the familiar – and give you eyes to spot that pearl of great price, and the wisdom to do whatever it takes to hold onto it.

And may your Kingdom map reflect the work that is in progress inside of you: tethered to the landmark-teachings of Jesus, moving boldly into the new frontier of God.

Beautiful Things

Unique,_snow_flakeMy church family recently welcomed a new member to our staff. As Adam was introducing himself to us, he said something that lodged in my brain and hasn’t stopped pinging since.

He said that God creates order from chaos.

Now, I don’t know what you see.

What I mean is, when you look around your house, your workplace, your neighborhood, this world… I don’t know what it is that YOU see…

But last week’s headlines read like this:

  • Mom Accused of Fatally Poisoning Her Son
  • CDC: 75 People Possibly Exposed to Anthrax
  • Executions Resume Amid Lingering Questions
  • Is Iraq War Today’s Vietnam?
  • Fear Among Sri Lanka Muslims After Mob Attack

And those are just a sampling from the media.

You could add your own headlines, couldn’t you?

  • Diagnosis: Cancer. Stage 3 Cancer.
  • Couple Accrues $8000 in Legal Fees Over False Charges
  • PTSD Keeps Families From Embracing Returning Vets
  • Addict Not Welcome at Home
  • Family Feud: It’s Not Fun & Games Anymore

I don’t know what YOU see, but the word chaos is a pretty apt description of much of what goes on around us on any given day. The prophet Jeremiah saw this, too, and he used words like ‘violence and destruction’, and ‘terror is all around’ to describe it (Jeremiah 20:7-13).

It’s tempting, when we find ourselves inside a swirling mess of disorder, to feel powerless. To feel hopeless. And it’s common for people to give in to the chaos and become victims – because sometimes it’s just too hard to do anything else. And yet Jesus speaks to us today, in the midst of our own, personal chaos and He says ‘Do not be afraid.’ ‘Do not fear.’ (Matthew 10:24-39)

Now, these are not band-aid words Jesus is speaking!

Call me crazy, but I’m pretty confident that Jesus’ words are actually intimately linked to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics! (I know – I said ‘call me crazy!’)

Any engineers or scientists in the house? You will already know, then, that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that:

The natural progression of the universe is from order  to disorder.

Think about that for a minute.

Here’s another important part of this natural progression:

In the same way that nature moves toward disorder, nature’s tendency is to move toward lower energy.

Order requires energy – to stack a pile of blocks takes much more energy than to crash that same pile, right? To organize a deck of cards by suit takes more energy than a game of 52 card pick-up! Order requires energy, but nature tends toward that which requires lower energy, SO… nature tends to move toward disorder. This is also called ‘entropy‘.

This explains a lot, doesn’t it? It explains why diets almost always fail – because it takes a lot more energy to order our lives in healthful ways than it does to reach for a bag of chips from our favorite spot in front of the tv. It explains why self-help is often no help at all, because our physical nature leans towards inaction when left to our own devices.

As complex as we humans are, we will fall prey to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics every time, as long as we rely on ourselves to initiate change. This is why disorder and chaos are more likely to occur in nature – and in the world as we each see it – because nothing in nature is able to create or maintain itself. Without an external influence, we will land in chaos and disorder every time. It’s the LAW!

This is exactly what Jesus is talking about when He says that there are those who seek life in THIS world – a life of fulfillment for themselves, HERE and NOW – in a world where the most probable state for any natural system is one of disorder. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics says that all systems degenerate when left to themselves. And Jesus says those who find this kind of life will end up losing it in the end.

Unaided by God, human beings are no different than any other natural system. Left to our own devices, we will follow the path of our addiction, affection or greed every time. Want life in THIS world, Jesus asks? Wrap your arms around entropy. 

Are you ready for some GOOD news? Well, buckle up! Because entropy can be lowered and disorder can be affected by external action – by the transfer of energy from a source OUTSIDE itself!

This is where Romans chapter 6 comes in and bridges the gap between chaos and order, between the laws of nature and the Laws of the Kingdom of God.

Hear this good news, but try thinking of sin as the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics – a state of mindlessly doing what the world wants us to do. Going through the motions. Apart from God.

Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did. (Romans 6:6-11 MSG)

Do you see it NOW? Jesus is the energy source that pulls us out of the chaos and into a life that doesn’t end in death! When we are willing to let this earthly life go, for Jesus’ sake, that’s where true life is found! That’s when we experience FOR OURSELVES – firsthand – that God is at work, creating ORDER out of chaos!

This act of Jesus, his death and resurrection, his transfer of energy and life, WORKS because we are LIVING SYSTEMS… And living systems are OPEN systems, meaning that energy can transfer in and out. In living systems, this transfer of energy is called HEAT!

And this makes SO MUCH SENSE of Jeremiah’s cry, that ‘within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in and I cannot!’

God’s presence works in us to counteract our natural tendency toward cooling off, toward randomness, toward chaos, disorder and sin. 

Oh my gosh, think PENTECOST! Ever wonder why the tongues of fire? Pentecost was God’s own object lesson in heat transfer ! His Spirit’s energy moved in, burning off the ties to this physical world so that men and women could finally live free from the laws of sin and death! Amen?!

As citizens of the physical world, we are obligated to follow its laws – including the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics – the universe does tend toward chaos, and we tend to fear what we can’t control. But don’t forget! We have become part of Jesus! What died in our baptismal waters was our allegiance to the whims of this world, the natural tendency for us to do the easy thing, the desire to look only to our own selfish interests and to isolate ourselves out of fear or even laziness

ALL of which constitute SIN, by the way.

Romans 6 says we are no longer slaves to it!

We are no longer slaves to this chaotic, disorderly world because the power of God has acted on our very existence, transferring HEAT! FIRE! ENERGY! Empowering you and me to see and do and become well-ordered, beautiful things in Christ Jesus!

 

Click here to view a beautiful music video of Gungor’s ‘Beautiful Things’

9 1/2 mph

Jesus prayed for His disciples:

“Holy Father! Keep them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one just as you and I are one.” John 17:11b

How hard is it for people to be “one” – completely unified in heart and mind? Is Jesus praying an IMPOSSIBLE prayer? We can look around the world and see MANY examples of disunity and disagreement; in fact, most of us needn’t look any further than our own families to see just how difficult it is for people to become “one”.

Take marriage…

God ordained for the two to become one in marriage, but the divorce rate in America sits between 41-73%, depending on whether we’re talking first, second or third marriages. (http://www.divorcerate.org/)  If TWO people fail more often than they succeed at creating unity between them, how in the world can we even HOPE to see the church “become one” in mind and spirit?!

A few passages before this prayer in John’s gospel, Jesus told His disciples:

“This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my Name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you.”  John 16:23-24

I have to believe that Jesus wouldn’t lift up idle prayers that He knew full well would not be answerable by God. He was one with God – His Father! He already KNEW what God desired for these followers of His. Jesus had to be praying for unity and one-ness among us, knowing that such a thing could be achieved with God.

In a world where even Christians can’t agree, however, don’t you have to ask yourself whether Jesus was crazy to talk about unity as if it could ever really happen?

I took a trip to San Francisco last weekend with my family, to enjoy the company of our former exchange student, Sue. In the midst of a whirlwind tour of the Bay, among the crowds of tourists and slightly annoyed locals, God gave me a surprising glimpse of this idea of “oneness”…

And it starts with a CAR. YOU, behind the wheel of a car. What KIND of car it is doesn’t matter, because in America it’s about what that car REPRESENTS –INDEPENDENCE, FREEDOM OF CHOICE, and CONTROL.

At the end of each school year we celebrate those who are completing 12 years of education. This milestone is often misinterpreted as an ENDING – a celebration of something that is now OVER – rather than a celebration of the journey as it CONTINUES in a new and different FORM. Many grads can’t resist the temptation to jump into their “cars” and drive AWAY – doing their own thing now that they’ve “graduated” – and let’s face it: ALL OF US know the THRILL of being captain of our own ship, even if the ‘ship’ says Chevrolet or Honda on the bumper!

Christians tend to live their spiritual lives the way Americans live their daily lives – we jump in the car, we go where we want and need to go WHEN we want and need to go there, and then we go home. All of us going in different directions, at different times, on different routes, based on what suits us best. Very little NEED for ‘unity’ in a world like ours where we’ve all invested in our own independence – our own “wheels.”

Enter, now, the San Francisco Cable Car. Have you have been to San Francisco and taken a ride on one of these? You know, then, as one of the Cable Car operators told some passengers sitting near me, that this is NOT to be confused with a TRAM or a TROLLEY! Though they may LOOK a lot the same on the outside, a Cable Car is vastly different in the way that it WORKS…

First of all, a Cable Car does not have its own POWER source. There is no motor inside, and on its own, it’s nothing more than a cool looking car that isn’t going ANYWHERE anytime soon.

Secondly, a Cable Car runs on a specific path. This route was pre-determined when the tracks were put in place and there aren’t options like “hang a left at the next block” unless the track already goes that way. You might say this track is narrow, and there is no doubt as to where it leads.

Also, a Cable Car has lots of room for different kinds of passengers. You can sit inside if you don’t want to be windblown or get wet when it’s raining. You can stand in the back and have a great view of what’s behind, or sit in front to see what’s coming up ahead. People on the sides enjoy the open air and can experience the city as it goes by, and frequent stops allow new people to jump on and others to climb off, because we still have that choice – even on a Cable Car – don’t we? There is a limit to the number of passengers at one time, though, because the car won’t operate correctly with too much weight or too many bodies on board.

So – what makes a Cable Car move? Where is the POWER if not in the car itself? This was the coolest thing for me – walking across the street, over the tracks, and hearing the steady hum of the cable moving underneath! That cable is ALWAYS in motion. When a Cable Car is stopped, it’s because the car has become disconnected from the cable, but the cable itself DOES NOT STOP. When the car is moving, it’s because it is connected to the cable.

Now, there are multiple cars in various locations on any given route, but the moment one of those cars connects to the cable, it is going the SAME SPEED as every OTHER car along the path. This is because the cable itself is always moving at 9 ½ miles per hour. You can’t have a “fast” car or a “slower” car on this route – the cable keeps things steady and reliable, and the speed of the cable is always the same.

As you might expect, it takes a trained operator to run a Cable Car – someone who knows the mechanics of connecting the car itself to the cable in order for it to move. There are multiple levers to manage, and it looked to me like it took some STRENGTH to do this job! Especially on the steep San Francisco streets.

Cable Cars share the road with other traffic, too. There were cars zipping around all over the streets where the tracks were laid, honking at the Cable Cars while going their own speed, their own way…

And it was HERE where a vision of ACHIEVABLE UNITY among Jesus’ followers appeared to me, in terms like this…

We need to realize that there are AUTHENTIC Cable Cars & authentic families of faith. They don’t just LOOK LIKE the “real thing”, but they are genuine both in DESIGN and FUNCTION.

An authentic Cable Car, like the authentic Christian Church, has no power in itself. Only when connected to the steady cable, to the power of the Living God, can there be any movement or progress made.

The Cable Car designer laid the tracks, and there is no doubt as to where they lead. You can be sure that ‘wide is the road that leads to destruction’, but if you want to take THAT route, you’re going to need to step OFF of the Cable Car and get into your Ford, because WE who are onboard KNOW WHERE WE ARE GOING!

There is more than one Cable Car on the tracks and more than one Church on the block, traveling the same route. A variety of people are in each car, and sometimes they come & sometimes they GO. Sometimes they switch cars. But we’re still on the same path as long as we GET INTO THE CAR!

You can only fit so many bodies into the Cable Car before the car (& the operator!) get stressed. There are limits for safety and limits for proper function of the car… and of the Church.

If a Cable Car stops its forward progress, it’s because the operator and passengers made the decision to stop. The cable keeps going, and so does God.

Every car connected to the cable will go the same speed, full speed ahead, at 9 ½ mph. That’s the speed of the cable. No one can boast that their car is faster and covering more ground, or that their car is slower, allowing more passengers to jump on. God – like the cable – remains the same.

Trained operators are needed on the Cable Cars and in the church. It’s not that they know MORE than the passengers, but their function is to keep a strong connection with the power source, so that the car can move and the people aboard can be themselves – passengers on a journey together, powered and directed by a Designer who knows, though it may sound crazy, that WITH HIM, ALL of His people actually can be ONE.

Climb On!

Alpine Towers Ropes Course

Image by heraldpost via Flickr

There are times in my life when I have been truly amazed at my own fearlessness while doing INCREDIBLY intimidating things.

ME – afraid of heights and PETRIFIED of falls – in a harness, climbing a 50 foot tower, only to JUMP OFF of the top and be lowered to the ground by another person – a real person – just like me.

ME – telling my kids to “be careful” while they ride their bikes with helmets and training wheels – doing backflips in the air while bouncing on a trampoline.

ME.

Rather, MEin a harness.

NEVER would I have considered climbing 50 feet above the ground or flipping upside-down and all around on a trampoline! But with a harness and a skilled belayer, the seemingly impossible becomes DO-ABLE! Even FUN! Having caught wind of the sheer possibilities, now that I’ve BEEN THERE & DONE THAT, I’m SO READY to DO IT AGAIN!

In our Christian “walk”, however, things are often very different…

We choose the (seemingly) “safe” path – the one WITHOUT 50 foot high towers. The one that may require some running and stretching, but NO bouncing and DEFINITELY NO back flips. The result is that we may succeed at avoiding some of the things that make us uncomfortable or stress us out, but we ALSO MISS some of the greatest possibilities God may be bringing our way.

It may be inconceivable that God would ask YOU to climb that “tower”, make that move, take that job, solve that problem… But with that challenge comes God’s Holy Spirit YOUR HARNESS! – which is ever-present and constantly attached to your heart through God’s Word. With that upcoming feat comes God’s Son, Jesus Christ YOUR ROPE! – firmly connected to your heart and ever-present with God the Father. And with that risk comes an EXPERT BELAYERour Dad, our ABBA – whose grip on your rope never loosens. Whose hands never tire. Whose strength NEVER FAILS. No task or challenge, however daunting, is impossible when you allow yourself to be harnessed in by the One who puts each star in the sky and even calls them all by NAME!

Once the buckles are tightened and the rope attached and snugged, YOU call out, “That’s me!” and hear His voice ask, “Climber ready?

“Ready,” you answer – sometimes in a barely audible whisper, sometimes with a confident grin.

CLIMB ON!” says your Lord, and you know that it doesn’t matter whether you FEEL READY INSIDE because once the first step is taken, you’ll find that your apparatus is holding – it’s WORKING! – your Belayer will not let you fall.

And you’ll CLIMB ON, in spite of how you feel, because His Spirit will not let you go. His Son will ALWAYS show you the way and keep you on course. God HIMSELF will hold tightly to your rope as you draw closer to the top of  HIS mountain or HIS tower. God HIMSELF will steady you, 10 feet off the trampoline, as you let go of gravity’s pull and put head over heels – again and AGAIN – for the incredible, simple JOY of living life HIS WAY.

Lord, help me prepare to climb the next mountain that comes my way.

Give me the guts to look at Your world differently – even from upside-down, if that’s the view I need to see.

Light inside of me the flame of wonder and WOW!

And once it’s finished, the challenge met & the job well done, may I look behind me and realize that I could never have DREAMED that You would do THAT through ME!