Wednesday, August 20, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 8 - Divine Do-Over - August 16, 2008

God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them:
“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”
Genesis 9:1 NIV

What would it be like to be the only family remaining on earth following the flood? Everything has changed. You once lived among people in a village. Now you’re displaced to a mountain—just you, your spouse and children. The animals that you lived with peacefully on the ark are now afraid of you. God has caused them to fear you and he has directed you to become a meat-eater. Perhaps this was necessary because the flood submerged all plant life under water for over a year. Reseeding and growing new plants takes time. It will be awhile before you enjoy fresh produce.

How do you start over? As a Red Cross volunteer in Louisiana, following Hurricane Katrina, I worked with people who were starting over from scratch. Many had to find sanctuary in other states with extended family, or via relocation made possible by the invitation of strangers, churches, organizations, and communities.

One couple in the Red Cross shelter in Covington, LA was invited by Dennis and Emily Carroll to move to Anderson and live with them. Roy and Elizabeth Carrere, of New Orleans, came to Anderson with practically nothing. The Carrolls and the community of Anderson reached out and helped the Carreres make a new life for themselves.

But, there were no kin to take Noah and his family in; no Red Cross or FEMA assistance; no Christian Center, New Harvest Food Bank, Operation Love or Habitat for Humanity; no religious community; not even one caring stranger offering sanctuary. You are alone with a family to clothe and feed. Where do you begin?

The only guidance or instruction from God that we know about is, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” You have God’s blessing and his covenant that he will never again destroy the earth by flood, but these are intangible things—you can’t build a shelter or plant and plow a field with them.

Therefore, you get busy procreating, but the pressure of having to be fruitful and multiply kind of takes the fun out of all that begetting. Human nature hasn’t changed and your progeny create all the same problems that existed prior to the flood. There are no wise elders around to advise and encourage you.

Granted, God has provided a food source for you, but you have no idea how to catch, butcher and prepare a zebra or monkey or hippo, especially when the critter is skittish and eludes your novice attempts to catch him. You have no way to start a fire because every tree and twig is waterlogged. Do you eat that bear, or possum or coyote raw, as you see all the animals doing?

I would like to think that if I were in Noah’s shoes, I would be grateful just to be alive—and off that stinky ark. I would hope that I would appreciate the new source of nourishment provided by God, whether I had to eat it raw or cooked.

However, it is more likely that I would quickly become a complainer, balking at my food choices, just as the Israelites turned up their noses at a steady diet of manna. I would feel resentful that I have to rebuild the world, AND the human race. “It’s not fair, God! Why couldn’t you have left a few of those evildoers alive to do all this work? After all, they’re the ones who reaped destruction on the earth and deserve to labor and toil, not me! I will most definitely be ‘too tired’ to procreate tonight, Lord—I feel a headache coming on.”

Judging from my rotten attitude, humanity still hasn’t changed a whole lot since Noah’s day. Thank God, for a gracious God who puts up with a whiner like me—now, that’s a God I can worship and praise!

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and…
sacrificed burnt offerings on it.
The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart:
"Never again will I curse the ground because of man.”
Genesis 8:20-21

Saturday, August 9, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 7 - Noah's Ark II - August 9, 2008

Imagine that you are eleven years old, and you are passionate about animals—all kinds of animals, but especially monkeys. You idolize the Crocodile Hunter and you want to be just like Steve Irwin when you grow up. You devour every book that you can find about animals and become a zoological encyclopedia.

Loving animals as you do, you are eager to become a zoo volunteer. In just a few weeks, you’ll turn twelve and will be old enough to achieve this dream. What might a twelve-year-old volunteer do at the zoo? Well, you will start at the bottom, of course, cleaning up after the animals. You don’t really mind, you’ll do whatever it takes to get yourself around all those fascinating creatures. Working at the zoo is an important step toward achieving your long-term goals.

You study very hard and science is your favorite subject. Once you graduate from high school, you plan to go to college and major in zoology. Then you will become a zoologist, all the while, dreaming your biggest dream: your dream of dreams. Someday you will own your very own zoo, which you will call “Noah’s Ark II.” The original ark housed two of every kind of creature, but since your ark is Noah’s Ark II, you’re going to double the population and have four of every animal. This is a lofty dream, but it is your dream. What a wonderful dream for a child your age!

This is, in fact, the dream of eleven-year-old Logan Greene, of Willington, Tennessee. Logan and I share a similar passion for God’s creatures and the natural world. We both loved the Crocodile Hunter. Logan and I have one more thing in common: we are related…

On July 18th, Logan had an experience that no child should ever have to go through. After work and a late dinner out, Logan’s mom, Lisa Teeple, Logan, and his ten-year-old sister, Lexie, stopped at Wal-Mart on their way home, to pick up milk and dog food. After getting back in their truck with their purchases, Logan and his family witnessed a carjacking. A man with a gun approached the vehicle parked catty-corner to Lisa’s truck. Logan was in the front passenger seat and was the closest to the gunman. As they watched, horrified, the man opened the door of the other vehicle and, at gunpoint, pulled a woman out onto the parking lot. Her son was also in the vehicle. The gunman climbed into the vehicle and drove off.

Logan has been asthmatic for years, but his condition was under control, so much so, that he was quite active in several sports. However, on the evening of July 18th, the stress of witnessing a violent crime triggered an unusually severe attack. So severe, in fact, that Logan—just a few weeks shy of his 12th birthday—did not survive. Before medical help arrived, his throat and bronchial tubes swelled to the point that it was impossible to intubate.

You can imagine the shock and grief that reverberates throughout the Greene and Teeple families, at Logan’s school, among his many friends, within the community and church, and among the many medical personnel who attended to Logan and his family. In response, God’s love has been personified a hundredfold in the caring acts of family and friends, and a multitude of strangers. In their hometown, individuals, businesses, organizations, you name it, have enfolded Logan’s family in God’s comforting arms.

This precious boy, Logan, loved and cared for all of God’s creation. While he will never have the opportunity to realize his dreams for Noah’s Ark II, Logan walks with God, now and forever.


Logan’s death was an unnecessary and avoidable tragedy, an unexpected repercussion of someone’s selfish act. While I don’t set out to hurt people, I know that I am quite capable of acting selfishly, without thought for how my actions impact others, least of all, those who I can’t see or imagine. I pray for peripheral vision of the heart, so I can see and bless the innocent bystanders witnessing me unawares.

In loving memory of Logan, God’s—and Noah’s—
zookeeper walking-buddy.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

WALKING BUDDIES: Part 6 - God of the Rainbow - August 2, 2008

I have set my rainbow in the clouds…
Genesis 9:13

“So how was the movie?” I inquired. My husband, Rex, and our four-year-old daughter had just spent quality time together at the theater viewing, “Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer.” Bethany—our own little Rainbow Brite—was tired, but thrilled by the experience. Dad, on the other hand, was less enthusiastic. He complained about their crick-in-the-neck, front-section seating. “I missed the last part of the move,” he confessed contritely. He had fallen asleep.

According to the official website of Rainbow Brite, the heroine was a precocious young girl named Wisp who was endowed with special powers and commissioned to rescue Rainbow Land from a spell of total darkness and emptiness. In order to do this, she has to find “the sphere of light.” During her quest, she finds a baby who turns out to be the sphere of light. Rainbow Brite fights the Dark One and restores Rainbow Land to its original beauty.

Hmm… where have I heard this plot before? I recognize some themes: saving a people from darkness; a light to lighten the darkness; a baby, who is, in fact, the Light; fighting the Dark One; restoration. The story of Rainbow Brite contains striking parallels with the Biblical account of God’s grace in Jesus. Rainbow Brite, like other fairy tales, is a story of good versus evil, a story of redemption.

The rainbow is a fascination woven like colorful threads into the fabric of many religions and mythologies. To the early Greeks, the rainbow represented a path connecting earth and heaven. In the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” the rainbow is “the jeweled necklace of the Great Mother Ishtar.” It is impossible to consider the rainbow without pondering the amusing Irish tale of the leprechaun hiding its gold in a pot at the end of the rainbow.

In the Bible, the first rainbow appears following the flood, as a symbol: “Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds…” (Genesis 9:11-13 NIV)

On a spiritual level, the rainbow is a refreshing symbol of hope and promise, a reminder of God’s love, faithfulness and grace. However, the skepticism and disillusionment of our age clouds the powerful promise of the rainbow. The phrase, “chasing rainbows,” (referring to the pursuit of an illusory or false hope), captures our jaded relationship with the rainbow. There is no pot at the end of the rainbow. Even if there were, it is impossible to reach the rainbow.

I always thought that God gave the rainbow to help us remember his promise. But listen to this: Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant.” (Genesis 9:14-15 NIV) Of course, it is encouraging to us to see a rainbow and remember God’s covenant, but God has tied a rainbow ‘round his finger to remind himself of his promise.

I hope someday to view a rainbow from the window of an airplane. The globe on which we stand blocks our view, but from the sky, it is possible to see that the rainbow is a complete circle. God gave St. John a vision of heaven in which, “a rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.” (Revelation 4:3 NIV) I may never get to see a rainbow from the air, but I sure look forward to seeing the heavenly version.

In the meantime, God’s rainbow promise encircles us with protection and encouragement in the storms of life. God’s golden grace cannot be contained in a pot, at the end of the rainbow, or any place else. God’s abundant grace is at his fingertips. I wonder if it just a coincidence that the first time grace appears in the Bible is in Genesis 6:8: “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (KJV)

Isn’t it just like God to have grace in his eyes?