Friday, October 28, 2005

Water, Water everywhere . . .

Richardson Falls, Franklin, NCThis is another waterfall from our recent trip, and this one happens to be on my mother-in-law's property. At least half of it is. The border between her land and the people from whose porch I took this photo runs right through the middle of the creek. Her house sits on 25 acres near the top of a mountain and this particular waterfall is fed by a mountain spring.

I told her "Whatever you do, do NOT sell this property!" Granted, it is hers to sell if she wants to, but already at the bottom of her mountain I could see the property's eventual fate if she did sell it: People are building mini-McMansions lower down the hill (and higher up). The developers would probably divide her parcel into 1/2 acre plots and put as many of these ugly boxes on them as they could. And that would be truly sad.

I found it ironic that people who build a mountain home (or purchase one) to get away from noise, hurry, and crowds, eventually -- unless they buy all they can to insulate themselves -- find themselves surrounded by other people who have come to escape the muchness, manyness, noise, hurry, and crowds. Doesn't that suck!

And lest you think that I am exaggerating, this is a photo of what her back porch looks out on.MakePeace Farms View
Inside that little copse of trees is a gazebo which offers even more spectacular views. The colors were not at peak during our visit, but you can begin to see some of them breaking through. And you can hear the two waterfalls from the gazebo. And so the last thing that she should do is sell this. It would be an absolute tragedy. If anything, she should buy more property on this mountain to keep the pillaging hordes at bay.

But again, that is her decision. I know what I would do.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Let Justice Roll Down like Waters ....

Cornelia and I went on vacation to western North Carolina to check out some of the waterfalls there. Transylvania County (I am not kidding, that is the name) is called "the land of waterfalls," and the brochures do not lie.

This particular falls is Looking Glass Falls in the Pisgah National Forest. It is fed by Looking Glass Creek and is supposedly the most photographed falls in the county because -- of course -- it is the closest to the road. But the thing that stuck in my mind was the force of wind that the falling water created when it went over the rocks.

I was standing on the dock they have at the stream's edge there, and I could feel the wind that the waterfall made rushing past me. I guess I never thought about how much force that much water going over a cliff generates. And this was a relatively small waterfall. But the sound was enormous, even for a small falls.

I reminds me of the scripture above in Amos 5:24, where the prophet is upbraiding the people for their outward show of religion without any real repentance. The prophet says:

Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let Justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream (Amos 5:23, 24).

The waterfall also reminded me of John's description of the voice of the resurrected Jesus in Rev. 1:15: His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.

When you stand next to one of these falls, all you can hear is that. Nothing else. Cornelia was calling to me from the shore at one place and I could not hear her for the sound of the waters. It was awesome. I will post some more photos later, including more waterfall shots and some others that I took during the trip. Enjoy.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Stronger than the Weight

"All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you," (1 Pe 5:5-7).

This is a tough one. I have been studying in 1 Peter recently as part of my course work and this scripture sticks in my craw. What does it mean to be humble? And does this apply to modern people the same way that it applied to the audience in Turkey 2000 years ago?

Let me start off with a few points.

1. The word for be subject to in vs. 5 of this scripture is
hupotasso which the Thayer's Lexicon defines as "to arrange under, to subordinate; to subject, put in subjection; to subject one's self, obey; to submit to one's control; to yield to one's admonition or advice; to obey, be subject."

Thayer's Lexicon adds it was a Greek military term meaning "to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader". In non-military use, it was "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden".

2. The word for oppose in this reference is Antitassomai, which means: "to range in battle against; to oppose one's self, resist."

3. Whom does God oppose or array Himself in battle against? The proud (Gr. huperhpanoiÃs, meaning "with an overweening estimate of one's means or merits, despising others or even treating them with contempt, haughty")

But he gives charis or grace to the humble (Tapeinos=which literally means not rising far from the ground, but here is translated humble or lowly).

4. Peter then tells people in the church - this is not pagans he is writing to but Christians - to humble themselves under God's control, so He can lift them up (Hupsoo to lift up on high, to exalt) at the proper time.

That's the stickler. At the proper time. That's why this all requires humility. Because we have to wait for the proper time! The Greek word here is kairos, which is different from what we think of when we say time. We think of chronos, chronological time, tick-tock-the-bus-is-leaving time. But H. Douglas Buckwalter writes:

Time is not fatalistic or capricious, but, according to Scripture, under God's personal direction and control. Time began at creation and becomes the agency through which God continues to unveil his divine purpose for it.

God is transcendent over time. He established the cycle of days and seasons by which time is known and reckoned (Gen 1:14) and possesses the power to dissolve them according to his eternal purposes (Isa 60:19-20); moreover, he controls world history, determining in advance the times set for all nations and bringing them to pass (Dan 2:21; Acts 17:26). But God is not limited by time (Psalm 90:4). It in no sense diminishes his person or work: the eternal God does not grow tired or weary (Isa 40:28) and his purposes prevail (Prov 16:4; Isa 46:10).

And what are we to do about those "the-bus-is-leaving" kind of things -- cast them all on Him for He cares for us. Cast them. Cast -- Epirrhipto, literally to throw upon or to cast -- them on Him. This is the same word used when people "threw their garments on the colt, and put Jesus on it,"(Lk 19:35).

And what are we throwing on Him? Our cares, our anxiety our merimna which in other places is translated "worry" (Mt 13:22) or "concern" (2 Cor 11:28). This is the word that Jesus uses when he says the "cares of this life" choked the word and it proved unfruitful.

But - and HERE'S the big one - we have to leave them with Him. We can because he "cares for" (Gr. melo - care about) us.

Ralph E. Enlow, Jr. Writes in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Theology:

Freedom from anxiety begins with confession that it is not God's will. In fact, anxiety is a subtle insinuation that God is either unable or disinclined to see to our welfare. Other remedial measures include recognizing the futility of worry (Matt 6:27; Luke 12:25); cultivating a growing understanding of God's power and fatherly disposition (Matt 6:26; Luke 12:30); entrusting to God the things that we cannot control (1 Pe 5:7); increasingly viewing things in eternal perspective (Matt 6:32-34; Luke 12:30-34); and substituting prayer for worry (Php 4:6).

Have you ever carried a book bag that was too heavy? Or maybe a backpack on a camping trip? Or maybe you are a mom and you have carried an infant around in one of those papoose things they have nowadays. After a while these things begin to take their toll on your body. Do you remember what a relief it was to put down what you were carrying or to give it to someone else?

I remember one time I was trying to prove my manhood at the gym doing bench presses. I had handled the lighter weights for a while, but then I really loaded the bar to see how much I could lift. I found out it was less than I had on there when I could not move the bar any higher than a couple of inches off my chest.

But I was stuck.

I could not lift the weight, but I could not put it down either. If I held it there long enough, gravity would make the deicision for me - at the cost of some teeth and a plastic surgeon.

Just about the time I was about to give out, two hands grabbed the bar near mine, and a voice said "here, let me help you." I looked up to see a guy "spotting" me and I was very glad to let him have the weight.

Had I continued to try to lift it myself, I was done. But this guy came to help just in time. That's what it means to cast your anxiety on Him. Let Him have it. It's a choice we can make, and we will have to make several times. But we can trust that God is good and will be there to catch our anxiety and we can experience the freedom that comes from trusting Him with it.

Friday, October 07, 2005

40 days and 40 nights ....

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Mt. 5:45b).

Thank God the rains came! According to the Weather Channel (that's their Doppler Image from Friday at 5:00) we are supposed to get about 4 inches of rain in the next 24 hours and there is a flood watch for Manassas. But thank God for it. To me it is an answered prayer. (I might feel differently if the creek rises too high).

But I cut the dust (notice I did not say grass) in my yard last week and I saw the bushes we paid good money for withering from a lack of rain. The weather guys have been saying that September was one of the driest months we have had in years, and there was only 0.15 of one inch of rain. That's compared to about 4 inches on average. So thank God for the rain.

Now if you are flooded out, like some of the poor folks in New Orleans or Biloxi, you have probably seen enough rain for a while. But if you have been kicking up dirt where your lawn used to be like I have been, rain is a welcome visitor.

Now that means something for Christians in the District as well -- the Luis Palau DC Festival starts tomorrow (Saturday). There are millions of dollars of equipment and tents and other stuff on the mall, and some big name musical acts, including CeCe Winans, Steven Curtis Chapman, Third Day, and Jaci Velazquez are scheduled to appear as part of the Festival. It runs two days, and right now if the weather holds it could be a soggy time.

But is that a bad thing? It illustrates to me how one person can view the same happening as negative and another as answered prayer. My prayer has been for about three days of rain, just because the area has been so dry. I'm sure the folks on the Mall would have loved weather like we had earlier this month, bright sunshine and blue skies with temperatures around 80. But somebody's not going to get what they want. Some of the folks in blue ponchos tomorrow might not think they are standing in an answered prayer; I see things a little differently.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

I am willing ....

Today is the day for AIDS Walk DC. Since I work downtown, I saw literally thousands of people walking the streets right by my office to benefit Whitman Walker Clinic. There was even a marching band -- actually it was the drum corps of a marching band -- taking part in the walk.

According to the Clinic's website, there have been 15,132 cases of HIV diagnosed in the District of Columbia. Of that number, the majority (80%) are men and the majority of infections are from men having sex with other men (48% compared with 26% from Intravenous drug use, 14% from heterosexual conduct and less than 1% from contaminated blood products).

The majority of those infected are African American, and the largest age group is between 30-39 (41%). The second highest age group is 40-49 (32%). Of those infected, so far, 6,932 have died from AIDS or AIDS related infections. These stats were as of December 31st, 2002! There have been more infections and more deaths since.

In Virginia, it is predominantly white men having sex with other men who are infected and there have been more than 2,100 who have died. Those stats are from December 2003. The transmission through heterosexual contact was higher in Virginia vs. DC. The largest age group was 40-49.

Okay, so where am I going with this? The question that came across my mind while I watched the AIDS Walk DC was "I wonder if there are any Christians in that group, marching to support the Clinic?" Many times the so-called "Christian Right" seems to come off as judgmental, projecting the image that AIDS is the person's own fault -- they should not have been involved in whatever behavior (gay sex, sex outside marriage, drug use, etc) that got them exposed. Obviously this opinion does not extend to those who are exposed (like tennis great Arthur Ashe) through blood products or through pregnancy, like AIDS babies.

But I wonder if many of us would be willing to walk beside the homosexual or the others afflicted by HIV/AIDS? I have to confess being around really "out" gay men gives me the willies. That's because of my own woundedness. (There's some family history there that I can explain later). But I have a brother who is gay. And I sometimes wonder what I would do if he called and said he had been infected. Would I treat him differently? What would I do?

The gospel of Mark relates the story of a man who had leprosy who came to Jesus and begged to be healed. He said "if you are willing, you can make me whole." And what did Jesus do? He "reached out and touched him, and said 'I am willing, be healed.'" Wait a minute! Jesus TOUCHED him? You weren't supposed to TOUCH someone with leprosy! They were UNCLEAN! But Jesus touched him.

And why? Because He was "moved with compassion." The Greek word there is splagcnivzomai, which is defined as "to be moved as to one's bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity). It was a gut-level compassion, a deep feeling.

So watching the AIDS Walk DC made me wonder, "where is my compassion? Can I watch all these people walk to raise money and then just go, 'Oh isn't that nice. It doesn't affect me, but it's nice that they are out there walking."

Somehow, I am not sure Jesus would assume that attitude. As a matter of fact, I know He wouldn't.