Friday, January 26, 2007

Running Out of Steam

Dave drove and I read. He pointed out fascinating scenery. I shared motivating tidbits from the printed page. After mispronouncing “calliope,” I sounded it out. Then I asked Dave what fueled the calliope instrument. He knew. The first ones ran on steam.

I later read that Joshua Stoddard invented the calliope, patented in 1855. Late in the century, horse-drawn circus wagons traveled to communities, in the beds calliopes and trademark organ pipes.

The calliope evolved from an 1832 “steam trumpet.” You still hear these today—known as train horns. Modernized calliopes and horns are fueled by compressed air, but the old ones ran on steam. It took steam to make music.

At least one time in the Prophet Elijah’s life, he ran out of steam and his song lost its lilt. F. LaGard Smith calls Elijah “God’s man for the hour.” He delivered messages to kingships and common men alike. Powered by God, miracles trailed his wake: he raised a boy from the dead and a widow’s jar of flour and jug of oil didn’t run empty during a drought.

After a nasty run-in with wicked Queen Jezebel, Elijah grew especially weary. Rampant idol worship in Israel, left Elijah feeling alone, abandoned in his faith with no one to fight alongside of him. His tune went flat.

That’s when God appeared with his booster cables. To Elijah hiding in a cave, God sent fireworks. First, he sent a jackhammer-wind that cracked the mountain and split stones (talk about compressed air).

What expression chiseled Elijah’s face when next an earthquake shook the soil he stood upon? When the earth quit wobbling, Elijah watched a bellowing fire devour trees and twigs. After the God-steamed display, Elijah heard a gentle whisper and he was drawn to The Voice that could right his senses.

God drew Elijah from his cave of self pity and gave him a huge helping of courage. He also told him that 7,000 Israelites had refused to bow to the Queen’s preferred idol. He wasn’t alone in his faith. After this God-arranged intimate encounter, Elijah “propheted” again.

Gas to keep driving. Air to keep tires up. Food for energy. Depleted sources still leave one weak and vulnerable to Satan’s tool of discouragement. But God can draw us out of caves of despair. He can profit us again because he is able to re-sculpt doubt into sheet music.

“Send forth you light and truth, let them guide me: let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell” (Psalm 43:3).

Friday, January 12, 2007

Dirt Dauber Determination

To feed their families, the mud daubers (dirt daubers) pack their dinners on my back porch. Spiders seem especially tasty to them, so they paralyze the main course and stuff them into their custom designed storage units.

Mud daubers are members of the wasp family and are not hostile “stingers” as are some of their cousins. However, they are aggressive in another area: nursery construction.

In the summer, females can be spotted near the edge of mud puddles, where they roll wet dirt into tiny balls, about the size of a BB. One uniform ball at a time, held in the mandibles (jaws), is flown to a construction site. Pellet by pellet they construct tubes, shaped like organ pipes.

The females around here are partial to the mortar indentations on my bricked back porch. Bit by bit, BB by BB they carry out their mission to ensure the survival of their young.

Upon completion, each bin holds paralyzed spiders and grub-like larvae to feed upon them. Mud dauber moms put their babies in cylinders with spiders, but first, they made sure they could do no harm.

In the Old Testament story about Joseph, his brothers in a moment of very poor judgment sold him to Midianite merchants. Later, in an act of deception, they showed their father Joseph’s blood-soaked coat. Their dad reasoned that Joseph, mauled by a wild beast, was dead. The sons did nothing to correct his assumption.

Meanwhile in Egypt, Joseph grew to a position of power, eventually a tool in God’s plan to save Joseph’s family and thousands upon thousands during a seven year famine. Much later, his guilty brothers acknowledged Joseph in his powerful role and asked for protection.

Joseph recognized God’s providential touch saying, “Don’t be afraid.” What his brothers had intended for harm Joseph knew “God intended it for good.” Joseph “reassured them and spoke kindly to them” (Genesis 50:15-21).

To help protect the next generation, God told the Israelites to keep account of how he watched over them: Stay alert. Keep close watch over yourselves. Don’t forget what you’ve seen. Don’t let your hearts wander off. Stay vigilant as long as you live. Then God said, “Teach what you’ve seen and heard to your children and grandchildren” (The Message, Deut. 4:9).

Throughout life, our little ones will come in contact with harm similar to live spiders, but God can paralyze evil and turn a bad situation into benefits for many.

When summer arrives watch for God’s mysterious teachers, the mud daubers.

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A New Name

An out-of-town restaurant we frequent has a walk-up order counter and then patrons wait at their tables while their food is prepared. The clerk asks for a name to place on the meal receipt. For fun one day and on a whim, I falsely identified myself. I don’t remember what new name I gave the clerk, but the antics made my husband smile.

As long as I was giving a name, he didn’t care what name I gave, because he’s not fond of having his first name “yelled” out in a restaurant. Since then, when we order at that restaurant, I try on a new name, sort of like a stage name. The only trouble—when our order takes too long, I tend to forget my current name.

Sometimes I give my middle name “Lee.” On other visits, I’ve been Nadine, Elizabeth, Charlene, and one time I was Lucy. When we walked away from the counter, I whispered to David, now you can say, “I love Lucy.”

The fun may get me into trouble if the IRS ever checks our out-of-town restaurant stubs because my “new” names are on the tickets. Maybe I’ll save this article as substantial proof of my many identities.

Many adults would like to shed nicknames or names they’ve earned, but Thomas C. Haliburton said, “Nicknames stick to people, and the most ridiculous are the most adhesive.”

Renaming is not a novel idea. God renamed people. Usually when he did gift a new name that person was at a crossroad in their life, one where they traveled in a better direction. Jacob’s name meant “deceiver,” but after many heart rending lessons about deception, God renamed him “Israel” which means “ruling with God” (Genesis 32:28). The fresh name suited his new track and was much more desirable than a name suggesting fraud.

Occasionally, God let parents know before a child’s birth that the baby was chosen for a special work. Samson, future judge of the Israelites, was such a child, and his Danite mother chose a name that meant “distinguished, strong” (Judges 13:24). Jesus means “savior,” and long before his birth and naming ceremony, a herald angel announced his name to Mary and then to Joseph.

Here’s something to contemplate: If God named you instead of your parents, what might it be? Or if God renamed you based on your current path, what might your new name be? God is good at naming. The Psalmist said He named trillions of stars (Psalm 147:4), and I like to think he has a special defining name for each of us, one that fits perfectly.
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