Thursday, March 29, 2007

Struck by Lightning

No, I wasn't literally struck, but a thick, bright, vertical bolt of electricity powered down with a loud BOOM within 100 yards of my van as I drove down the highway between Anna and Melissa this afternoon. Interestingly, it threw down in the middle of an empty field--not the cell town 1/2 mile away, nor the nearby trees--but a tract of flat farmland.

I've never been so close to lightning before. I'm only just now realizing that the boom I heard was what I usually call thunder. Only this time, it all happened at once, seemingly the sound produced by the impact, not the reverberating sound waves that travel for miles. I'm sure they did this time, too, all the while my heart tried to settle back into normal rhythm. For while my body wasn't struck (if you don't count the seared retinas that reflected the bolt's negative image back at me for the rest of my drive), my heart was.

It all happened within seconds. The bolt blasted down. I jumped and exclaimed, rubbernecked to see what damage had occurred, ineffectually rubbed my eyes to clear the image away, and took deep breaths to calm my quavering heart. As the physical jolt wore off, the emotional impact continued.

All I could think of (yes, you can drive on autopilot) was that God made that lightning bolt. It was so powerful, so amazing, so stupifyingly beyond human imagination or control...and because it is his creation, logic and faith tell me that He is even more powerful, amazing, and beyond my imagination (and control, duh). The Bible gives me and you such insight into his character, that we can know his kind yet just nature, his holiness and redeeming love. God's personality, revealed most fully in Jesus, can be fairly well understood, given time, study, Spiritual eyes, etc. But I can't help but think of Job, a man considered righteous by God, a man who knew how just God was, how faithful and redemptive. Yet Job in his sufferings began to question Him.

God lets him talk. But then God tells him to get ready, because the creator of the universe is about to answer him. Uh-oh. I can't quote it's about two chapters long, starting in 38:

(God speaking)
“Where were you
when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you possess understanding!
Do you know the laws of the heavens,
or can you set up their rule over the earth?
Can you raise your voice to the clouds
so that a flood of water covers you?
Can you send out lightning bolts, and they go?
Will they say to you, ‘Here we are’?
(Job 38:4, 33-35)
Too often we worship a small God, someone quite different from the God who reveals himself in the Bible. He is a BIG God. He made lightning, jolts of power from the heavens that kill, split, energize, heat, destroy anything they strike--in a zap. He made hurricanes, tsunamis, tornados. On the flip side, He is the powerful creator of life--I either cried or stared in wonder at each of my three children when they were placed in my arms for the first time. I was in awe, of them, but mostly of the Lord who made them grow inside me...that miracle of life. Springtime reveals his creative, life-giving, ways as well--green grass, trees budding, bluebonnets and indian paintbrush waving in the fields, calves and foals skipping along, baby birds... And while spring is my least favorite season (that's another post altogether), it is a perfect opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary life-giving, redeeming power of my God.
What kind of God do you worship?

Monday, March 26, 2007

As Promised

A few posts ago, I promised to share any pictures that came available from the Donkey Basketball game. There were many contenders, but the winning entry shows "Donkeyotee" sinking an alleyoop shot to put his team ahead for good. Check out my man!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dallas Blooms
On Tuesday, my friend Kelly Arabie met me at the Dallas Arboretum for a morning with the kids. I told Jack it was a big flower garden. He and Maggie, and Kelly's girl Kate, all enjoyed themselves, especially after we released them from the strollers to run wild. The theme was "Flower Power: A Tribute to the 60s."

It was "Tiny Tots" day, featuring a petting zoo, craft tables, music and more. Here's a glimpse:

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Kids

The beautiful weather gracing us the past two weeks has prompted lots of family walks around our burgeoning neighborhood. Jack, who just turned 3 last month, recently mastered his bicycle with training wheels, and can carry himself down the street quite well, needing help only on the inclines. He can't remember to keep pedaling as he approaches a sidewalk ramp or driveway, so we give him a nudge. Nate of course can speed his way along any surface, popping little wheelies when he gets adventurous.
And Maggie gets pushed in the stroller or pulled in the red wagon. The wagon is riding in high style--we put old chair cushions in there to give her some padding, and she just sits back like a queen, sippy cup in hand.

I took a few pictures last week, before Nate's spring break, so he's not in them. But the little guys were having a great time.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Of Donkeys and Men

Ever heard of Donkey Basketball? If you want a good laugh--and I mean the fall-out-of-your-seat kind--just put grown men and women on the backs of a few real-live donkeys, then put them on a court with a basketball in hand. It's a new take on "March Madness." Each player must have contact of some kind with his/her donkey at all times, and while shooting the ball they must be astride their donkeys.

A "fast break"? Imagine everyone and their donkeys on one side of the court while the ball gets thrown to mid-court. The guy with the ball pulls as hard as possible on the donkey's leading rope, staggering down the court at a snail's pace. Then imagine the rest of the pack following as "fast" as they can. It's like slow motion, but in real time.

I was a witness to this cultural phenomenon earlier this week. Melissa ISD hosted the event as a fundraiser for prom. While I hooted and clapped with everyone else, my greatest joy came from seeing my husband make two baskets while--yes--riding his donkey. At least his mount didn't buck him off like a few others did their riders. It was quite a show. John did get bumped from behind on one shot, falling off the donkey's backside as the ball swished through the net. Of course, the students loved seeing their teachers play, elementary staff versus the secondary staff. Way fun. Way country. (If pictures ever become public, I'll be sure to share.)

I thought to write this post Tuesday night, right after the event. I'm glad I waited a couple of days. Yesterday, I came across another donkey. What is it with me and dumb animals? I was reading in Numbers, in my chronological Bible (applause, please: I made it through Leviticus!), and yesterday's reading was about Balaam the prophet.

Balaam is a prophet hired by the king of Moab, an enemy of Israel, to pronounce a curse upon Israel. Balaam wisely says "Let me see what the Lord says, then I'll pronounce whatever I'm told to." To the king's dismay, he blesses Israel instead of cursing them, then goes back to his own land. The king wants a do-over. He sends princes, emissaries with great riches, to entice Balaam back--hoping for that curse this time around. Though it's clear God is not happy with that idea, he allows Balaam to go.

While Balaam is on the road to return to Moab, an angel blocks the path. Balaam's donkey sees this, and tries to go around. Balaam, who cannot see God's messenger, beats the donkey. Then the angel stood in a narrow part of the path, so the donkey pressed up close to the rock wall, crushing Balaam's foot. He beats her again. Soon after, the angel positions himself in another narrow portion of the path, where there is no way around. The donkey lies down in the road, only to endure yet another beating from her frustrated rider.

Then something happens that didn't happen in the basketball game (thankfully!). God opens the mouth of the donkey, and she speaks to Balaam. "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?" Guess what--Balaam talks back! Like it's no big deal he's talking with a dumb animal.

"You've made a fool of me!" Balaam shouts. The donkey replies, "Am I not your own donkey...have I been in the habit of doing this to you?"


"Then the Lord opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his dword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facdedown."

The angel explains that the donkey saved Balaam's life, yet all she got for it was a beating. Then he warns Balaam to go on his journey but to say only that which the Lord tells him to say. In other words, this journey was not my perfect will (as you are in it for your own gain), but since you've started it, obey me explicitly or things will go badly for you. I will accomplish my will, I will make this work for my good, despite you.

On some levels, Balaam's story is confusing. He's a prophet, but not always on the Lord's side. He obeys God sometimes, but keeps attempting to prophesy against Israel. We do know that he is stubborn. Once he has decided to walk a certain path, nothing will stop him. Not even his faithful donkey that is acting very out of character. Shouldn't her errant behavior served as a clue to him that something was wrong?

Do we have such warning signs in our lives? Do we even pause in our headlong rush towards a goal to judge the wisdom of said journey? Do inexplicable hindrances make us stop and reevaluate? Or can we be described as headstrong, stubborn, having blinders on, having tunnel vision...?

James says "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (1:5). Before embarking on any journey (task, goal, direction in life), whether questionable like Balaam's or seemingly righteous as far as we can tell, seeking wisdom from God is a pretty good idea.

I only combined these stories of basketball and Balaam because of the donkey element. They have nothing in common except this: the donkey won.