Good Light, Irene
The recent hurricane that hit the tri-state area spoke clearly in various ways ... "Am I ready? Am I walking in the light?"
The "scout motto" has resounded in my heart since childhood, trying to heed that encouragement for much of my life: "be prepared". During the recent challenges in the northeastern US with Hurricane Irene, those words of wisdom served me better than ever before.
Living in North Jersey poses many challenges, but the list of common occurrences doesn't include earthquakes and hurricanes, and especially not within a week of each other!
We in the northeast got a little "taste" recently of what is so often in the news regarding other areas of the US, and surely a MINOR taste at that.... Enough to make my heart go out, not only to SO MANY in our area that have been devastated, but even more poignantly to those who live in the rest of the country and experience even worse catastrophes routinely!
Heed the Warning
Much has been said about the "over-hype" of this storm, and perhaps some in NYC experienced less than they'd anticipated. At the same time, because of all those "dire warnings", I personally had a "heads up" that caused me to change some behavior, which (by the sheer grace of God) saw me through the storm without skipping much of a beat.
So much advice was given by those who had "been there, done that" in the rest of the country.... Have everything at hand that you could possibly need ... water, batteries, flashlights, non-perishable food, a full tank of gas, etc. enough to last several days if the power outage is extended. A bit less typical advice ... wrap the contents of the freezer in garbage bags to keep the fridge from being a total loss after a long power outage.
Thankfully, the night the storm began, I decided to heed some of this advice "just in case", and I switched much of the contents of our regular fridge to a backup fridge downstairs that needed defrosting anyway. I put food that could stand a little less refrigeration into that one, since I'd be opening the doors if the power was out. I left some food in the regular freezer upstairs, wrapping it all in garbage bags, planning to leave the doors shut in case of a blackout, since the food should last a few days that way. I also put some food into a couple small coolers that night.
By morning, it became clear what a blessing it had been to take those actions, because we DID lose power overnight. Then the storm hit strong that day. Once the winds kicked around on the back side of the storm, just as had been pre-warned in the media, sure enough a HUGE tree two doors down from us simply let go from the roots and fell directly onto the electric wires. That caused the black out to last several days, as had also been anticipated.
Over the next few days, it became clear just how fortunate it was to have listened to all the warnings.
Walk in the Light
Living for several days without power was certainly challenging, but the experience brought many scriptures to mind, making them very "real".... Doing without all the amenities of 21st century life shed light on what Jesus meant when He referred to Himself as the "Light":
"Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by the world's light, It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light." (John 11: 9-10)
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8: 12)
"You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going, Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." (John 12: 35-36)
"I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness." (John 12: 46)
"For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." ... (to the Pharisees) "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." (John 9: 39, 41)
In our culture, whenever there is darkness, we can all too easily flip on a light switch. Problem solved. No stumbling, no walking into walls, ... a much more effective and efficient existence. In much of the world, and certainly during Jesus' earthly existence, having a "light" to guide you during the night is/was absolutely essential ... to avoid danger, to guide your steps, to make your surroundings clear, etc. How very fortunate it was for us to have flashlights, a lantern and "safe" candles to light up those "black out" evenings. Without them, it would have been nearly impossible to function at night, since the whole neighborhood had no light...
What a clear picture of our lives without Jesus as our "Light". We stumble without His presence. Life is filled with danger, very frightening, never knowing what is truly happening around us during "dark times". When we have Him in our heart shedding Light on our condition, we can walk with less stumbling, less fear, more effectiveness, more efficiency.... The more Light (the more "Jesus"), the more vision ... seeing far more than what is tangibly in front of our physical eyes.
Oil in My Lamp
In Jesus' day, it was likely essential to have an extra supply of oil to fill your lamps, especially if you had an extended period of darkness. Brings to mind the following story He shared:
"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep."
"At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' "
"Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' "
" 'No,' they replied,' there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' "
"But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut." (Matthew 25: 1-10)
The other virgins didn't make it in... The meaning of Jesus' story was summed up when He said:
"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour." (Matthew 25: 13)
Because of those dire warnings before the hurricane, there was light available to get us through the night, and it was amazing to see the continual provision of food THROUGHOUT the extended days with no power.... The more perishable food was eaten first (and thankfully we even had cooked meals, because our gas stove could be lit with a match). Over the next few days, as food thawed out, it was ready to be eaten, and after three days, the electricity finally came on "just in time" to finish preparations of any remaining food, and to turn the refrigerator back on so it could be restocked. We had good, cooked meals every day/night. God gently watched over us ... graciously WARNING us through the media (whether or NOT some thought it was "over the top"), and somehow moving my heart to LISTEN, and to HEED the warning ... to get prepared even though I didn't KNOW if the storm would really hit that badly.
Over those "quiet", mood-lit days and evenings, free of 21st century distractions, I had time to ponder what might not otherwise have been so evident. Reflecting upon the blessing of being prepared for what had hit us reminded me of Jesus' words: "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (Matthew 24: 42-44)
If We Had Only KNOWN...
It's one thing to be unprepared for an earthquake (which in our area is almost unheard of, and hard to predict). It is another to disregard warnings of a hurricane, see it barrelling down on you on the radar, and listen to the forecast remain virtually unchanged for days. I actually heard someone say on the news as the storm was beginning to hit, that he was not concerned, and had made no preparations, that he'd be fine.... He was down at the shore, where the storm slammed them pretty hard. I wonder how he fared, and hope he was right in his "vision" of what was to befall him. My mother mentioned (when I told her about him) that she remembered seeing young folks partying (on the news) right before Katrina hit.... Hoping they were spared ... but of course, we'll never know....
Before He told the story about the ten virgins, Jesus warned His listeners about the day of His return in this way: "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the day the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24: 36-39)
With all that has gone on in recent years in the news, my mind is often reminded of another portion of that scripture in Matthew, where Jesus said: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains." (Matthew 24: 4-8)
I personally think it's pretty safe to say we've been having some birth pains in recent months/years/decades.
Surely, He has been patient, warning repeatedly, and holding off so more could come to know Him: "First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where is this "coming" he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.' " (2 Peter 3: 3-4) "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. ... But the day of the Lord will come like a thief." (2 Peter 3: 8-10)
Although some enjoy predicting the day of His coming, He Himself said NONE of us can KNOW the day. But He has warned that the day WILL come, and urged us to be READY for it.... I realize these are challenging scriptures to say the least. If we choose to ignore them, not look at them, not consider them, go along in a way like those young people partying right before Katrina hit ... the "day of His return" will surely come upon us, as He said, like a "thief in the night".
Or, we can heed the warning, keep watch, be sure we have "oil" for our lamps (the Light of Jesus Himself in our hearts), and actually AWAIT His return ... eager to enter into the wedding feast with Him.
Am I Ready?
So here's the question: "Are you ready? Are you walking in the Light?"
Is there any behavior you would do well to change in preparation for the impending "storm"? Do you need to find out about purchasing some "Oil" for your lamp?
If these scriptures have stirred up any questions for you, feel free to email me back (lisa @ shiningriver.com, leave out the spaces...), or if you'd like to know more about coming into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, feel free to visit the following URL: http://www.lovinggrace.org/fellowship/salvation_prayer.html
May the Light of Life shine in our darkness, and may He cover you and protect you in the midst of the storm....