Thursday, August 14, 2014

Blood Brothers

The postcard arrived in a stack of mail and brought immediate smiles to the faces of my husband and I. Pictured on the front were our four sons, the three born to us and one “adopted” into the clan when they all happened to be home together on a recent holiday.

My three birth boys, Brian, Mark, and Kevin, have always been close. While still in the womb I prayed that they'd have a special connection as siblings, and God has answered that prayer through circumstances that left them little choice but to get along. Born roughly two years apart, they were raised in a rural setting where neighbors were few, and none had sons the ages of mine. And so my boys shared everything, from toys to clothes to the friends they made in our church and the private school they attended. Mostly they shared experiences with these brothers of flesh and friendship, and as they grew, so did the list of escapades they lived through together...shenanigans that were added to the lore of the Bridge Brothers en masse.

Grown now and gone from our home, the bond between them has held tight despite the physical distance that separates them, strengthened by the use of cell phones and social media that has kept them in close contact with each other. Regular visits home and vacations they take with one another have reinforced the ties that bind them together, as well as add to the ever-growing list of adventures survived and shared. New friends each of my sons have made on their own have only been pulled into the group of communal buddies rather than separating them from their friends of the past. A friend of one becomes a friend of the rest, brothers all.

It was Kevin, who met and became friends with Adam while they were in college together in Florida. Soon Adam had met Brian and Mark and the joke began about him joining the clan and becoming an official “Bridge Brother”. It surfaced so many times that it eventually became a reality. The last time my boys were all home together, Adam happened to be at a family reunion in nearby Cleveland and decided to drive down for a day, girlfriend in tow. An induction ceremony of sorts took place, hilarious in all aspects, and recorded for posterity on girlfriend Jenna's cell phone. Since then several “official” family photos have surfaced of the four “brothers” together, one of them on the front of the postcard that was sent by our newest family member as a thank you for the time we spent together. Addressed to “Mom and Dad” and signed Adam Bridge, it now hangs on our fridge, a token of joy remembered and treasured.

Adam's name brings to mind the long string of identically named sons who likewise longed to be adopted into God's family, a desire that was similarly satisfied through a relationship with His Son. Adam was added to our family in a ceremony involving barbecue sauce. root beer, and a whole lot of laughter; Christ added us to His with His blood, sweat and tears, suffering in silence on the cross. Yet with the action He bought for us the right to bear His Name, with all the rights and privileges that accompany it. Having secured for us an open access to Heaven we can communicate regularly now with our Heavenly Father, our prayers the postcards that He receives, treasures, and delights to respond to in His great love for us.

My youngest two sons recently got similar tattoos, the outline of the state of Ohio with the word “home” written inside of it in bold lettering. It has become so popular that many in their group of friends are thinking of getting the exact same one. In fact, Adam had his girlfriend draw it freehand on his arm with a black Sharpie while he was here, a sign that he was now one with the rest. The Bible says that our names are tattooed on the palm of Christ's hands in the nails he took on our behalf...that thoughts of Home may be tattooed not just on our arms, but imprinted forever on our hearts.

For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers...”
(Hebrews 2:11 ESV)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Burning Bush Theology

Flagmen on road construction crews live a life of danger because of people like me.

It's not that I don't see the orange work zone signs when driving. I even take note of the one informing me of a flagman ahead. But between the time I see the sign and the flagman actually appears, my mind has moved on to a million other things, and I forget to look for a man standing beside a stop sign where one normally doesn't appear.

I sent one such workman flying into a ditch one day as a result. With no line of cars patiently waiting to warn me as the construction zone neared, I simply kept on driving, despite the flagman's increasingly frantic motions on the side of the road. Consumed with my thoughts, I simply didn't see him. The son in the front seat suddenly realized I wasn't slowing and said, “Aren't you going to STOP??!!!!” At the last second I saw the sign and came to a screeching halt. As the flagman emerged from the ditch into which he had jumped, I saw with dismay that he was a county sheriff in full uniform, working the road detail on that particular day. Only then did I notice the patrol car with the flashing lights in the work zone. Surprisingly, I didn't get arrested; the cop was too furious to speak and simply stood glaring at me for what seemed like an eternity, my teenager slumped low in the seat next to me in total mortification, Slowly he retrieved the flag from where he'd thrown it as he jumped, and still scowling, waved me on my way.

Since that day, God has taken a proactive role in my life to prevent a recurrence. When we pass an orange sign while driving now He whispers into my ear, “Oh, look! A work zone.”

“I see it, Lord,” I reply.

“Are we going to kill the flagman today, or let him live?”

“I think we should let him live.”

“Good choice.” On and on He talks to me, making me laugh and keeping my attention focused on the situation at hand until we are safely through the construction area and another life has been spared.

Yesterday, however, I didn't need the Holy Spirit's conversation to get me to notice the flagman; the worker in question simply gave me no choice.

I had only just passed the orange construction signs when I spotted the neon-yellow-clad figure standing next to a stop sign and waving his hands repeatedly over the top of his head. Clearly he was taking his life in his hands by standing in the exact middle of my lane rather than at the side, making it an impossibly long jump to the nearby ditch should I not have stopped. But obediently I slowed, so far in advance of where he stood that he actually motioned me forward and then raised his hand to stop me when I reached the exact spot he had in mind. Intrigued by how precise and intentional he was in all his movements, I watched to see what he would do next. He was all attention, counting the cars as they lined up behind me, looking ahead for the oncoming traffic to arrive, and motioning errant cars over if they strayed a little wide in the lane as they passed. When the one lane open finally cleared, he didn't just wave me casually on, like so many bored construction crew members have done before him. Very carefully he turned the sign, and then pointed to the word “SLOW” that was written on the other side. As if he knew that wasn't enough, he turned his hands over so the palms were facing the asphalt and pushed them repeatedly towards the ground, clearly telling me to take it easy on the gas pedal. Only then did he deliberately point to now-open lane ahead of me and wave me onward.

I've driven through hundreds of construction zones in my lifetime, and, as I've detailed above, I've barely given the flagmen at each end more than a passing glance, despite the fact that their devotion to duty has life and death consequences for me in those moments that I entrust my life to their direction. This man's excellence in even such a simple task caught and held my attention long enough for him to get his point across. I found that I was obeying his instructions and driving much more slowly through the site than I normally would, ignoring the pressure from the line of cars behind me to make up the time we'd lost in waiting.

Heading in to work myself that morning I couldn't help but compare my usual job performance in relation to his. No matter what our line of work, over time it's easy to let the level of performance we strive for slide from the-very-best-we-can-be to just-enough-to-get-by. And yet for us as Christians there is a reason beyond the desire for a great performance review to increase our attention to detail. God likewise has a message of life and death consequence to deliver through us to the people who pass us by each day. Yet it's easy for His voice in us to get lost in the daily barrage of opinions and attitudes our fellow travelers are hit with as they journey through life; we tend to blend in like so much passing scenery. His presence within us, however, should cause to us to approach everything we do with such passion and excellence that we stand out, causing people to pause in their passing and take note of what He wants to say through us that they might otherwise have missed.

God has a passion for saving people; sometimes He just needs a little help in getting their attention. That's where we come in. Simply be at your best and let God do the rest.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might...”
(Ecclesiastes 9:10 NKJV)
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