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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

When Water On Road, Turn Around! Don't Drown!

"If Water On Road, Turn Around! Don't Drown!" replaced for a season the lit signs above the freeways that flashed, "Stage Three Drought." And where ice sheeted pavement till schools shut, the sun beats out heat while I beat eggs because I'm going to fry them on the hood of my car. I once heard of a woman who baked cookies on a cookie sheet she placed on the seat in her car. Yeah, this is summer fun in the south. No wonder fried food is the hottest competition going at the Texas State Fair each year. I didn't know what a chicken fried steak was till I moved here. I learned years ago in North Dakota that there's no such thing as a jackalope, though the gas stations sell jackalope postcards; and I've learned that there's no such thing as a chickasteer. And fried Dr. Pepper? Yeah, there's such a thing.

There's a question the psalmist asks about God in Psalm 147; "Who can stand before His cold?" I read it now and wonder the flip side, "Who can stand before His heat?" Seems to me real answers are needed lest we freeze stiff, or fry crisp; drown in water, or dry up for lack of it.

"Who?" The question is there in black and white on pages thinning yellow but bearing the weight of the glorious words written on them.

"Who?" The question would be asked by the likes of me because this skin of mine is thinning, too. It happens kind of crinkley with age and I don't notice till I look at a brand new Bible, or daughters' hands and necks and the delicate supple skin just under their eyes.

I would ask Him, but the answer is given in the preceeding verses before the question is asked.

Who? Seems it's those who know the thin and the stiff; those who've been shut out in the cold and given ice to warm themselves, and those who've been in the frying pan beneath the sun hotter than summer in Texas because they are those who know what it is to be outcasts of Israel, brokenhearted, wounded, uncounted, un-named, humbled. When these can sing praises to God with thanksgiving, then the answer is, "Praise the Lord! The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy" (Psalm 147:1, 11).

So I haven't needed to ask the "Who" question; but I have needed to ask, "How?"

"How? Lord, really, just how?" I've asked on my own behalf till I knew His answer by heart; and in heart, and then saw the answer just blaring in those bright yellow lit-up freeway signs, "If Water On Road,Turn Around! Don't Drown!" Isn't that pretty close to another way of saying,"Repent"?

Freeway Sign

I practice how. And turning around is what I do when life merges into the fast lane and comes at me like a flash flood on the freeway. I've prayed, "Lord, give me a sign telling me to turn around before I'm forced around."

He did; and when I sped past this flashing sign, I couldn't help praising God, "Hallelujah! I'm turned around!"

I used to get swept under and gasp for air, but then I guess I got turned around so many times that I lost myself to repentant life.

Now I ask the "How to stand" question because I need an answer for those who know my story and are reading my Pisteuo! books, and stopping me in the grocery store to ask me, "How?"

It happened like this yesterday between the bread and sport's drink isles. "I know your story. I don't know how to do this. I'm told to trust God more, and it'll go away. But it's not. There's more to it than that, isn't there," She smiled the plea. "Oh, I know there is, but I don't know what." She and I would have abandoned our shopping carts and gone to straight to the coffee shop where the real beans are spilled and the bitter is sweetened. But we couldn't. Not just then.

It's hard work. And the energy needed doesn't come from Muscle Milk or Gatorade or carbs in the bread isle, but only from this Bread that we remember daily and from the cup we remember to drink from because He ran the race and praised God every step of faith; and He endured for the joy of what He hoped for. He was shunned, fried, dried, cut up, un-named, and uncounted.

And He knows how to stand because He's done it.

Sometimes we know how to do it, only by doing it.

Maybe part of the answer to the question, "Who can stand before the hard cold that God has given, scattered, and cast out," is on this open page of Bible before me. Maybe those who can stand are those who learned how to stand, before God rebuilt them. Before. Because that's when a heart's prone to get a little tough proud. Before any rebuilding by God, we may begin to reason that since it seems God isn't making it go away, then we will. Somehow.

Maybe those who've learned how to stand are the same who've learned how to be humble; before God put them together, healed them, and counted them because they counted His humility worthy.

And could the other part of the answer be that the God who sends the hard that freezes the blood in our veins is the same God who sends out His word and just melts the hard till it pools and flows away?

But when we stand in a grocery store isle just hoping to get home before we fall to pieces, that's when we ask the how with a contrition that realizes there's more to this than pat answers; and too much of this for any help less than supernatural.

The answer is on this aging page of scripture and it's not "Trust more," as if our trust initiates His work. No. Seems the answer is that He sends out His cold, and who can stand it?

And that He sends out His word and melts the cold.

I wish I had this to share yesterday. I'd say something like, "His mercies are tender in the tough, and tough to make us tender."

I used to say, "I wish I could reach inside you and just turn your heart right around." I'd say it to a flushed little face on the dark green couch because, well, maybe he got frustrated with older brother, and maybe he threw a lego at him and it might have hit him.

He did; and it did.

And the boys would be reminded of alternatives to throwing legos.

Somehow the conversations with hot and sweaty little boys, faces all flushed with tears, didn't change much. Somehow the details of who did what to whom just never required a different speech. Truth was truth on that dark green couch, and the details never changed that. Oh, the details would be heard. The, "He did, and he said," had to be heard so that the response could be given. Again.

The truth was always, " I can't reach inside you and turn your heart around; only God can do that." Seems the truth always has something to do with turning around. With repentance.

The little offenders' chins would tremble in my cupped hand. I would hold their eyes with mine and somehow the truth is never rejected by contrite hearts.

The boys would listen like that, then lower their eyelids because maybe they felt like I could see into their hearts just by looking into their eyes. So they'd lower their eyelids. But I'd tilt my chin down and tilt theirs up, and our eyes would meet in the middle and hold just there.

"What your brother did," I'd say, "belongs to him. What you do, belongs to you." I'd pause and watch the stiff shoulders soften a little. Isn't that what happens when we stop carrying the offenses of others on our shoulders? They lower a notch?

"Now," I'd continue, "what did you do?"

"I," and the confession would tremble out.

"Do you remember," I'd prompt, "what you can do differently?" Seems we're prone to forget options when emotions run rough shod. Seems we need rehearsals till we know the script by heart.

"Come to you," he'd remember.

"Why?" I'd ask because it's important to know why. And to remember it's not to tattle.

"So that I won't throw legos at him?"

"Exactly." And I'd think to myself about the legos I've thrown. The words. The attitudes. The "if looks could kill" glances. They're all legos.

Only God can melt the hard with a single word, and only His Spirit can blow as warm wind till the waters flow down the cheeks of a lego thrower with good aim. I happen to know, as a repentant lego thrower myself, and as the mother of a couple of repentant lego throwers, that there's usually a wee bit o' smugness when the aim's right on; but also a smidgen of guilt when the target cries out because legos sting like hail when they hit tender skin. 


"He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly," I read what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 147:15.

"What is Your command?" I ask Him because His answer will further define for me just who He is. "Is it this? That You give snow, and scatter frost, and cast hail stones?"

"I give, scatter, and cast the cold that you can't stand before." He gives no excuse.

"You give it?" I want clarification, because many don't agree with that. Many say that He allows it. It's supposed to be comforting to those who are in the hard cold that's as stinky as wet wool, and as ashes that remind us of a time when we were glowing happy warm by the fire, and as  ice-ball morsels to eat.

"I give it." I hear Him respond somewhere between the isles of  "The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him," and "He takes pleasure in those who hope in His mercy." I'm reminded of yesterday when I stood between the bread isle and the sport's drink isle because bread, after all, is first threshed. And the likes of the kernel of wheat that I am fears the thresher. And I know a young man who used to throw legos, grew to drink the hope Muscle Milk offers, and now he hopes in the strength of God's mercy.

No one can stand before His cold. Is that why He sends it? So that someone would would fear Him for real as the One who does more than allow the hard, but as the One who commands it? So that someone would feel reason to hope in His mercy? And isn't this kind of language learned by those who repent before His cold? Who turn around before His cold because they know they can't stand before it?

I don't have to ask Him where the comfort is in this, because it's written in the very next sentence. "He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow," Psalm 147:19-20). And when it flows, I best have turned around when I had the reason smack in front of me all uncomfortable.

We make the choices when the hard and the cold are in front of  us. And the choices we make will determine if we turn, run in fear, and continue lobbing legos; or if we turn because we fear the same God from whom we also hope for mercy.

Sometimes the fast lane happens in a roar of revved up emotions and legos fly. But I read a plaque recently that said, "Repentance means-'to turn away from sin and start to follow God completely.'"

The boys and I learned this script of truth by heart, and in heart, by way of throwing legos and then by finding the off-ramp to repentance. The by-ways are the in-roads, and "Turn Around!" flashes above the off-ramp while legos speed by.

"I want to wake up every day at the foot of my bed." He knows what I mean and I remember as a little girl waking just that way. Only I woke lost at the foot of my ginormous Coleman green plaid flannel-lined sleeping bag.

"You want to wake up  turned around!" He and I have our own humor.

"Yeah, I do."

I want to wake up repentant.

That's a good place to loose myself.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig

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