Outta Control

A few months ago I had the pleasure of touring the Tillamook Air Museum in Tillamook, OR. It is located at old Naval Air Station inside a large K-Class airship hangar. There were many amazing exhibits of full-size airplanes, cockpit trainers, jets, helicopters, and more, but my attention was caught by an old F-4 Phantom cockpit that had been used in the movie “Sully.” Captain Sully Sullenberger flew F-4s in Vietnam, and the owner of the F-4 cockpit allowed it to be used in the movie and then donated it to the museum.

The events of Captain Sullenberger’s heroic saving of a US Airways A320 airplane that crashed landed into the Hudson River in 2009 are well known. Just after taking off from LaGuardia Airport, the plane was struck by a flock of Canadian Geese that flew directly into the engines, causing complete engine failure. In a miracle of bravery and expertise, Captain Sullenberger landed the plane on the water and assisted all 155 passengers to evacuate to safety.

When things get out of control, it is good to have a captain around. I know this from personal experience. I have had two emergency landings in an airplane in my lifetime. One was due to the windshield cracking, and the other involved evacuating down inflated chutes immediately upon touchdown due to an engine fire. Knowing that the captain was in charge kept me calm and assured under great pressure. Plus, I’m married to a captain, so I know the training, experience, and expertise that it takes to be one.

Today’s Scripture likens Jesus to a captain in control of everything. In this passage we see evidence that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. In the fullness of his humanity, he is a brother to us and thus lower than the angels. But in the fullness of his divinity, he wears the crown of glory and honor, and controls the ship like the Captain that he is:

Hebrews 2 (Common English Bible)

God didn’t put the world that is coming (the world we are talking about) under the angels’ control. Instead, someone declared somewhere,

What is humanity that you think about them?
        Or what are the human beings that you care about them?
For a while you made them lower than angels.
        You crowned the human beings with glory and honor.
        You put everything under their control.

When he puts everything under their control, he doesn’t leave anything out of control. But right now, we don’t see everything under their control yet.However, we do see the one who was made lower in order than the angels for a little while—it’s Jesus! He’s the one who is now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of his death. He suffered death so that he could taste death for everyone through God’s grace.

Hebrews 2 (New King James Version)

10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying:

“I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”

Is your life in disarray? Do you feel out of control? Do you need a Captain-Savior to bring you to safety? Does chaos reign in your family?

In his glory, Jesus conquered death and restored humanity’s place of dominion over the earth that was lost when Adam fell. We become rightful heirs to the promise that all things will be sanctified in God’s time.

In the meantime, remember that God is in control, even when the plane is going down. Your Captain is at the helm. Thanks be to God.

Welcome Aboard

Where Were You

Have you ever been put in your place? Has a moment of brash talk ever resulted in someone “setting you straight”? It hurts, doesn’t it? I’ve been there and felt that. In hindsight, it was not so much a punishing experience as it was a learning experience. These moments of correction are painful, and often necessary. But we have to be open to their instruction … that’s the trick.

In today’s passage we find God giving Job the ultimate moment of instruction. Wowzers, this is a doozy. God begins by calling Job a “darkening counsel” and says that Job’s words lack knowledge:

Job 38 (Common English Bible)

Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:

Who is this darkening counsel
    with words lacking knowledge?
Prepare yourself like a man;
    I will interrogate you, and you will respond to me.

Yikes. But as you read this next part, see how God describes all of his omnipotent power in a way that is reassuring, even as Job is being rebuked:

The establishing of order

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?
    Tell me if you know.
Who set its measurements? Surely you know.
    Who stretched a measuring tape on it?
On what were its footings sunk;
    who laid its cornerstone,
    while the morning stars sang in unison
        and all the divine beings shouted?

Can you issue an order to the clouds
    so their abundant waters cover you?
35 Can you send lightning so that it goes
    and then says to you, “I’m here”?
36 Who put wisdom in remote places,
    or who gave understanding to a rooster?
37 Who is wise enough to count the clouds,
        and who can tilt heaven’s water containers
38     so that dust becomes mud
        and clods of dirt adhere?

If you needed to be reminded of who is in control, this is it. God sends lightning and wisdom alike. He counts the clouds, tilts heaven’s water containers, and gives understanding to the rooster. Can you do that?

Lion and raven

39 Can you hunt prey for the lion
    or fill the cravings of lion cubs?
40 They lie in their den,
    lie in ambush in their lair.
41 Who provides food for the raven
    when its young cry to God,
    move about without food?

Job is a righteous man who experiences a humbling lesson. So should we. But rather than receive these words as a chastisement, as Job had to, may we embrace them as a beautiful reminder that God is God … and we are not.

Thanks be to God!

Smart Kitty Hawkers

Pandemic Legacies

Is this time of incredible trouble bringing out the best in you, or the worst in you? Every day brings a set of frightening new numbers, a slew of new recommendations, a lot of new problems…and a deluge of new worries. As I write this, there is a national debate going on about children returning back to school in less than two months.

There are strong and cogent arguments on both sides. The medical side points out the possibility of an increased spread of infection. The social work side argues that remote learning increases stress on working families, which historically corresponds to increased child abuse in the home and damaging social isolation for the child. Experts are weighing in on both sides, and there is no magic solution here.

What can we do?

I remember once being told that in situations where you aren’t in control, you should focus on what you can control. About the only thing left to control at this point is your reaction to everything that is out of control.

How are you doing with that? Do you have your reactions under control? Yeah, me neither. Some days are better than others. Some days I just want to hide under the covers.

Today’s passage is a timely reminder that our reactions are a reflection of who we are and what we believe. Even in the midst of such global turbulence, Paul reminds us not to throw a question mark over everything God has done for us. In situations like this horrific pandemic, Paul says not to squander any of the marvelous life God has given us. Instead, we are to be a reflection of God in everything we do.

2 Corinthians 6 (The Message)

 1-10 Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us,

I heard your call in the nick of time;
The day you needed me, I was there to help.

Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details.

We may not have seen the worst of this pandemic yet, but listen: IT WILL END. We won’t be living this way forever. In due time, it will be eradicated. There will be a vaccine. Things will return to a semblance of normal. God hears our call and is here to help.

But let’s hope we don’t return to the way we were. Let’s strive to a new normal that is faith-filled, battle-tested, smarter, more compassionate, and more dependent on God than we ever were in the before-time. Let’s strive to come out of this BETTER.

What will your pandemic legacy be? Have you been a witness to God’s hope, grace, and mercy in these troubled times? Have you stayed true to your word? Are you still God’s servant, filled with deep joy, a pure heart, a clear head, and a steady hand? It’s not too late to pick up the mantle of hope. Even in this, you can be a beacon of gentleness, holiness, and honest love to the world.

You control your response every day. Let your light so shine that all would see Jesus reflected in you, and gain hope themselves.

People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly…in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.

Go out today and be “terrifically alive,” reflecting the deep joy of the Lord in everything you do. Let this be your hope: we are one day closer to the end of this thing.

Reflections by Jamie Mathis

Slaying the Leviathan

I have been fascinated by the word Leviathan ever since I was a child in Sunday School and heard it for the first time. According to Merriam-Webster, a Leviathan is defined as a sea monster defeated by Yahweh in various scriptures; a large sea animal; a totalitarian state having a vast bureaucracy; or something large and formidable.

Formidable, like a two-year-old having a tantrum. Or a pandemic. Or a terminal diagnosis. Or an angry church member.

I was surprised to see the way Leviathan is used in this Psalm. Here we see a playful image of a sea creature splashing around and romping among the ships. What a delightful picture!

Psalm 104 (Common English Bible)

Lord, you have done so many things!
    You made them all so wisely!
The earth is full of your creations!
25 And then there’s the sea, wide and deep,
    with its countless creatures—
    living things both small and large.
26 There go the ships on it,
    and Leviathan, which you made, plays in it!

I love this twist of meaning. It serves to remind us today that no matter what large and formidable thing is confronting us, it is all under God’s command, and he can turn something threatening into something placid in an instant. Indeed, everything and everyone waits for God for sustenance, fulfillment, and even life itself.

27 All your creations wait for you
    to give them their food on time.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
    when you open your hand, they are filled completely full!
29 But when you hide your face, they are terrified;
    when you take away their breath,
    they die and return to dust.
30 When you let loose your breath, they are created,
    and you make the surface of the ground brand-new again.

Did you need to be reminded today that God is in control of his creation, even when everything you see seems to be saying otherwise? I did. Viruses, riots, protests, fear, violence, hatred, judgment, slander…all of it falls under his power and purview. Yes, it seems large and formidable to us. But God touches the mountains and they smoke.

31 Let the Lord’s glory last forever!
    Let the Lord rejoice in all he has made!
32 He has only to look at the earth, and it shakes.
    God just touches the mountains, and they erupt in smoke.

So let us sing to the Lord and be pleasing to him, and him alone. And may he slay the Leviathan in your life, whatever that may be. Rejoice in the Lord, always.

33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God while I’m still alive.
34 Let my praise be pleasing to him;
    I’m rejoicing in the Lord!

Spouting Leviathan by Karen McCauley