Run For Your Life

Have you ever had to run for your life? I’m guessing that with the exception of the military and first responders, most of us have never been confronted with a situation that was so life-and-death threatening that we literally had to run. I have run for the train, run for an elevator, I have evacuated my home during a Cat 5 hurricane warning, and even run a half marathon. But I consider myself blessed that I have never had to run for my life.

As a child, I had persistent dreams that I was in some life-threatening situation where I had to run, only to discover that my feet were cemented to the street. Have you had that dream? These dreams involved oncoming tornadoes, War of the World alien intruders, or some other terrible thing. When the threat appeared, I would look down at my feet and realize that I was stuck to the ground, unable to flee.

I think that while most of us have probably not been in any physical danger that would cause us to run, some of us may struggle with mental or emotional threats that leave us feeling paralyzed. I know a woman who is so paralyzed by her anxiety and subsequent paranoia that she has retreated to a place on the opposite coast from her family and cannot engage with them. Some fear tells her to keep running from any relationship with them. In her mind, even the smallest interaction would entangle and trap her.

Fears like this are as real to the person as an actual tornado coming down the street.

Our story today involves the great prophet Elijah at a time when he had to run for his life:

1 Kings 19 (Common English Bible)

19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, how he had killed all Baal’s prophets with the sword. Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah with this message: “May the gods do whatever they want to me if by this time tomorrow I haven’t made your life like the life of one of them.”

Elijah was terrified. He got up and ran for his life. He arrived at Beer-sheba in Judah and left his assistant there. He himself went farther on into the desert a day’s journey. He finally sat down under a solitary broom bush. He longed for his own death: “It’s more than enough, Lord! Take my life because I’m no better than my ancestors.” He lay down and slept under the solitary broom bush.

Elijah did what we need to do when we feel threatened: he got to a safe place and called on the Lord. Even though he felt he was at the end of his life because of the enormity of this threat looming over him, he knew to first call on God.

And God answered:

Then suddenly a messenger tapped him and said to him, “Get up! Eat something!” Elijah opened his eyes and saw flatbread baked on glowing coals and a jar of water right by his head. He ate and drank, and then went back to sleep. The Lord’s messenger returned a second time and tapped him. “Get up!” the messenger said. “Eat something, because you have a difficult road ahead of you.” Elijah got up, ate and drank, and went refreshed by that food for forty days and nights until he arrived at Horeb, God’s mountain. There he went into a cave and spent the night.

This story is a beautiful reminder that whenever we feel so threatened that we have to run, God is always there to provide safety, sustenance, and strength for the journey. Elijah received the ministrations of an angel and was given fresh baked flatbread and water…twice. God will provide what we need even in the worst circumstance if we remember to run toward him as we run away from the threat.

Are you running away from something? What are you running toward? When real threats come into your life, safety is the first concern. And remember that God is in every circumstance, running alongside of you until you reach safe harbor.

Safe Harbor by Michelle Robertson

A Thin Quiet

Whether it comes through a miracle, science, medicine, or nature’s natural progression, we all anticipate what it will feel like to hear the words “the pandemic is over.” We have complete faith that we WILL hear it. What we don’t know is if it will take six more weeks, six more months, or six more years. (God forbid!)

In the meantime, we hide in our caves and wait.

In our scripture today, we find Elijah hiding in a cave, fearing for his life. He has been chased there by the anti God-ers who have murdered the prophets and are now after him.

1 Kings 19 (Common English Version)

There he went into a cave and spent the night.

The Lord’s word came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

10 Elijah replied, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too!”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the Lord. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire.

We look to the strong winds of science to relieve us, but that hasn’t been accomplished just yet. We sit through an earthquake of medical advancements toward a vaccine, but so far, no joy. Even the fire of public policy that requires masks, hand-washing, lockdowns, and 6 feet of social distancing hasn’t eradicated this virus from the earth. Are all these things capable of slowing the rising curve? Yes. Is it happening fast enough? No.

After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave’s entrance. A voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

I think this is how the pandemic will end. Science and medicine are making great strides. Public policy is slowing things down and keeping us safe. But after throwing every human resource known to man toward solving it with a great show of wind, earth-moving, and fire, we still aren’t there yet. There will be a moment where God will speak it out of existence in a thin, quiet voice. But will we be able to hear him? In the end, as it is with everything that matters, we need God to save us.

14 He said, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too.”

God’s thin, quiet word saved Elijah. His thin, quiet word will save us, too. We just need to shut up all the SHOUTING at each other long enough to listen.

15 The Lord said to him, “Go back through the desert to Damascus and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. 16 Also anoint Jehu, Nimshi’s son, as king of Israel; and anoint Elisha from Abel-meholah, Shaphat’s son, to succeed you as prophet. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill. Whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. 18 But I have preserved those who remain in Israel, totaling seven thousand—all those whose knees haven’t bowed down to Baal and whose mouths haven’t kissed him.”

God preserves those who remain faithful and wait. Will you be numbered among the faithful?

Quiet Daybreak by Wende Pritchard

Deafening Busyness

“After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet.”

This time I was certain that the house was going to blow down. Winds that were the force of hurricane gusts brought an impressive cold front to the Outer Banks, and the windows rattled, the screens tore, and the house swayed. This three-story house was swaying in the wind so hard that it woke me up from a dead sleep. Winds are not uncommon on our little island on the edge of the continent, but this was a doozy. There is something both unsettling and reassuring when we are confronted with the power and force of a true “act of God” of Old Testament proportions. We can do nothing but listen to its howl and wait for it to subside on its own accord.

In the book of 1 Kings, Elijah has fled for his life, with Jezebel on his heels. He runs to the safety of a cave and has a one-on-one with God, complaining that he is the only righteous man left in Israel, and now they are about to kill him. He is instructed by an angel of the Lord to climb the same mountain where Moses received the commandments, and wait.

God sends a great and strong wind to assault the mountain, but he himself is not in the wind. Then an earthquake follows, but he is not in the earthquake. Finally, a fire rages through, but still no God. When the ruckus is over, God chooses then to speak to Elijah in a still, small, thin, and quiet voice:

1 Kings 19 (NIV)

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

After the power display, God tells Elijah that it’s time to get back to work. Elijah receives his marching orders, is given a helper, and sent back into the trenches. His mission to bring Israel back to the Lord.

I often wonder if I am missing God in the loudness that surrounds me.

I wonder if we miss our own marching orders because we are so focused on the wind, the earthquake and the fire that we don’t stand still long enough to tune our ear to the whisper. So much to do! We are so overwhelmed with busyness! I’m WAAY too busy to sit quietly and listen! The winds of our jobs, the earthquakes of family responsibilities, and the fire of maintaining our day-to-day lives keep us from hearing the still, small voice that offers the solution.

Woe unto us if we continue living in the cacophony. God is patiently waiting us out. He will not shout over the noise we have surrounded ourselves with, but rather will wait until we are ready to tune our busy noise out so we can tune his quiet love in.

Take heed. As Advent approaches, it is going to get louder. Busy upon busy, we will frantically run around preparing to celebrate the….what? Oh, yes, the birth of the Savior, who was quietly laid in a humble manger with only the sounds of the soft-spoken cow and the peacefully snoring donkey providing background noise. Christ is the focus, so don’t get caught up in lights and tinsel and all the rest of the noise so much that you miss the moment.

God with us, Emmanuel. Be quiet! And listen.

Blustery Day by Michelle Robertson.