Traffic Stop

This post also appears at http://www.inspireafire.com.

I’m sitting in traffic as I write this.

Sunset over highway

I don’t mean the backed-up-at-a-red-light kind of traffic. I wish I could write a blog post that quickly. No, I’m talking about the “highway is closed ahead due to two semis and a truck” kind of traffic. That’s according to a lady in a mini-van who apparently has inside knowledge from highway patrol somewhere to my rear.

She passes me slowly, the lady in the minivan, as I stand outside my car with half a dozen other people, stretching our legs. She rolls by half on the median as she tries to find a place where the median is a little less ditch-like in the hopes of crossing over.

“They said they have no idea how long it could be or what they are doing!” She shouts encouragingly as she rolls by.

Highway traffic

I am glad I recently made a pit stop, considering this part of Interstate 70 consists of nothing but wide-open fields with nary a bit of cover until darkness falls.

A few vehicles brave the small ditch in the median and do make it across, but most of us are sitting. Or standing.

And waiting.

The couple next to me have Kansas plates and a yellow lab they take for a walk. Ahead of me is a flatbed truck and behind me is a semi. I watch the sun set and the moon rise.

And I wait.

Our part of the highways turns to darkness. While headlights still pierce the eastbound lanes, our cars sit silent. No headlights, no flashing hazards. Only the occasional interior light or flash of a mobile device as someone rummages in their trunk. It’s remarkably quiet for sitting in the middle of a highway.

I’m mid-sentence on my keyboard when the world outside suddenly changes. Maybe it’s because I’m preoccupied, but the suddenness of the change catches me off guard. There is light and noise and movement. I toss my laptop on to the passenger seat, bring my car to life, and punch the gas. I had expected a gradual start-up, but in seconds I’m flying down the highway. The very last thing you want to do is stay in the middle of a highway with an entire line of cars behind you that have been sitting for two hour and are now ready to go.

Another mile down the road the congestion comes back. We move in starts and stops, bypass the crash scene, and then finally – finally – begin to move at a steady pace.

Isn’t that so like life?

highway at night

You’re hurtling along only to come to a screeching halt. A sudden change and you jump from 0 to 60 only to hit another road block. You stop and start. You detour. The stretches of smooth sailing sometimes seem few and far between.

We have a leader in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but that doesn’t mean the path is always clear. Like the Israelites following the pillar of fire in the desert, we don’t always know in advance when it’s time to go, or when it’s time to stay, or even which direction we’ll be headed next.

God grant to us the wisdom to know that when there is no clear path forward it may be time to sit and wait. And when the road suddenly opens up in front of us, let us be ready to punch the gas so we don’t get run over from behind.

Highway sign

Delayed. A story of fun things.

This post originally appeared at http://www.inspireafire.com/delayed-a-story-of-fun-things/.

I hope you enjoy!

Plane

It wasn’t the dinner-with-family I had envisioned.

I should have been there by early afternoon, but after a series of delays, cancellations, and rebookings, I found myself with an extra seven hours at the Charlotte airport.

Seven hours is a long layover.

Fortunately, there were two pieces of good news. First, I could still get out that night, so my long-weekend was still intact. Second, I’m a writer. Writers know exactly what to do in situations like this.

We go looking for something interesting to write.

My first stop was a model airplane mobile circulating above a sushi bar. I had already walked by this spot several times, but I never noticed it until I started looking. The slowly moving aircraft were mesmerizing, and all different. People rushed by me en route to their gates, but I stood so long staring over the heads of the diners that one lady finally got agitated and left. I took her seat.

Plane mobile

After this I strolled through a line of fake trees. It wasn’t exactly Sherwood Forest, but with a bit of imagination and the cute little directional signs I could almost pretend I was in a quaint English village. Almost.

Inside Trees

One entire terminal was open during construction. They weren’t kidding about the construction. Exposed wires, cardboard floors… I didn’t stay down there very long for fear that I might plummet onto the tarmac. But I did stay long enough to snap a picture of this exposed ductwork that I thought looked a bit like a silver saguaro cactus. Don’t you agree?

Exposed duct work

Throughout the Charlotte Airport are these fantastic seating areas filled not with the traditional bolted down airport seats, but with sparkling white rocking chairs. (You’ve got to love southern hospitality.) No matter which terminal I went to, these special rocking chairs were almost always filled to capacity, but one advantage of a 7-hour layover is you can outwait almost every other passenger. I did eventually get my turn to rock. Twice. And it was quite nice.

Rocking Chairs

Down what I dubbed the digital terminal, there was a fascinating display screen that constantly morphed into different colors and shapes. I stood amongst shrieking children pointing and exclaiming at the wall. I’m pretty sure more of the nearby adults would have joined in our jubilant awe, but they must not have had a long enough layover to shake off their layers of self-consciousness.

The nearby sign explained that this wall was a visual representation of all the data flowing through Charlotte International Airport at that very moment. Something in my brain does not allow me to understand how data punched into a computer morphs into something visually cool, but that’s okay. I decided to spend my time enjoying it rather than figuring it out.

Digital display

From there I wandered down countless more corridors, jumped on and off moving sidewalks, and ran up and down some stairs just for fun. I danced to oldies music outside a burger place and mariachi outside a Mexican cantina. I enjoyed some Carolina Pit BBQ with collard greens because it seemed like the thing to do. And then just like that, it was time to head to my gate and fly away.

Perhaps you’re also finding yourself someplace other than your intended destination. Maybe family vacation plans got rerouted, or maybe life threw you a curveball. Let me encourage you to take the time to explore where you are. Don’t compare it to where you’d rather be – of course it won’t measure up – but you might be surprised how God shows you some interesting things right here until He is ready to move you on to the next leg or your journey.

Shed Happens

That’s what the sweatshirt said: Shed Happens.

It was an appropriate statement, as anyone who has ever worn black pants near my khaki-colored dog can attest.

I was thinking of that sweatshirt the other night as my dog and I turned for home, leaving what could have been the remnants of a small furry animal in our wake. She isn’t the only one depositing tufts of fur. All along our favorite hiking trails are the signs of springtime shed – caught on branches, wrapped around old wire fences, snagged against the rough bark of a tree-turned-scratching post. I think of the timing of this, and how I once saw a little bird pounce happily on a ball of animal fur and cart it away to her nest. Since then, I often leave strands of dog fur on my porch. (Dear neighbors, No I’m not just being lazy every time I brush my dog. Some people put out bird feeders, I put out nesting material…)

sparrows with dog fur

Who knew a shedding dog & nesting sparrows were a match made in heaven?

Springtime shed makes sense. Animals are losing their heavy winter coats in preparation for the warmer summer months. But springtime shed does not just benefit the one putting on a sleek new summer coat. God’s design is far more intricate than that.

So often we see just one small piece of life’s puzzle. There are so many things we will never understand this side of heaven. But in the intricacies of nature, we sometimes glimpse something deeper. Yes, nature can be harsh. One creature’s loss is another’s gain, and that loss may not be as innocent as a tuft of fur. But in the peaceful symbioses that do occur, we get a glimpse of what Eden might have been. Where all things worked together for good in a way that was immediate, and obvious, and universal. Imagine these simple, mutually beneficial relationships on an even grander scale. Imagine everything working together as happily as a shedding dog and a nest-building sparrow.

Kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

sparrow flying with fur

Off to the nest!

Too often the beautiful relationships in this world are overshadowed by relationships of conflict. We live, after all, in a world that struggles with pain and death and spiritual sickness. But if we look closely, we will find that there are still elements of God’s good design all around us. These evidences point us back to a Creator who has not abandoned His beloved creation. God still holds all things together (Colossians 1:17).

Even shed happens for a reason. Think about that the next time you’re brushing pet fur off your pants.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21)

p.s. – Thanks to my photographer friend for these great shots!

Doubting Thomas Sunday

The Sunday after Easter is Doubting Thomas Sunday.

It’s true across multiple denominations, and it’s true whether you are on a one year lectionary or a three year lectionary. You may have heard Thomas’ story so many times you think you’ve heard it all.

Come with me anyway.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord (John 20:19-20).

All of the disciples that is, except for Thomas.

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20: 24).

Juxtapose this story with one that occurred earlier in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had just completed several miraculous healings and a second miraculous feeding – this time of 4,000 people with just 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish. But these miracles weren’t enough of a sign. The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. And he sighed deeply in His spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side (Mark 8:11-13).

Well, then. If that is Jesus’ response to a demand for a sign, what do you think He does with Thomas? Thomas, one of his twelve closest friends who had travelled with Him for three years and personally witnessed countless miracles – what does Jesus do with him?

One might expect a little exasperation. One might expect Jesus to say, “If you don’t believe in me now, after all you’ve witnessed, then you’re hopeless! I’ve given you all the evidence you need!”

But Jesus doesn’t respond that way, does He?

Eight days later, His disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:26-27).

Here we have two stories, both with people demanding further proof from Jesus, and yet two very different responses from Jesus. What was the difference?

The difference, I believe, is that Jesus knew the asker’s heart. Numerous times throughout the New Testament we read how the Pharisees asked Jesus things to test Him, to trap Him, or to ridicule Him. They did not come to Jesus with sincere doubt; they came to Jesus with self-righteousness and hidden agendas. One more sign would not bring them any closer to God.

Jesus walked away.

But to those who sincerely asked – for those who wanted to believe but struggled – Jesus had a very different response.

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27).

We know what happened next. Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

Did Thomas ever doubt again? I don’t know. Based on my own experiences, I would say probably. But based on my own experiences, I would also say that wrestling with those moments of doubt ultimately led him (again and again) to a deeper exclamation of faith.

Doubt, while seemingly so opposite of faith, is often a catalyst that draws us closer to God. Doubt is not something to shy away from. It is something to grip with two hands and shake. It is something to hold out to God and say, “Help!”

Sometimes in order to be genuine in our faith, we must first be genuine in our doubt. And that, to me, is the lesson from Doubting Thomas Sunday.

Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27).