Saturday, February 23, 2008

Storm Chaser

Many Christians have what we call a life-verse. It is a passage of scripture, a chapter, or some may even have an entire book that connects with their lives. It sums up their world view or it is a promise to which they claim and cling. My life-verse is the forty-sixth chapter of Psalms. It begins, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." Martin Luther declared that this entire chapter was the biblical basis for his hymn "A Mighty Fortress." That is why Tammy and I had this hymn played at our wedding and we opened her funeral with it. One day it will be played again at my funeral. Our God is a mighty fortress. My heart is lifted today to praise Him and lift Him higher. I want others to see how great is our God.

I am amazed by people who chase storms. I watch National Geographic as well as Discovery channel whenever they highlight storm chasers. I wonder what kind of fools get so close to the great tornados that sweep the great plains of this country. I want to make an observation. We spend a great amount of time running from trouble. We avoid them, pray to be spared from them, brace ourselves when we see them coming. Jesus did not do that. Jesus deliberately goes to wherever people are caught in life's swirling, tossing trouble. He really does draw near to those who are being crushed and broken.

In Mark chapter five, Jesus is getting out of a boat that landed on the far side of the Sea of Tiberius, Jesus saw a storm of trouble coming his way—a poor man who had been possessed and tormented by demons for some time. With a simple word, the demons were forced to relocate. Imagine the drama. Pigs squealing, people cursing, the wind sweeping the hillside, the terror of the dark spiritual world exposed: all make for a scene which makes the hair on your neck stand at attention. A man drops to the ground as if dead, when in fact he’s never been more alive. He is now free, seated at the feet of Jesus like a child full of amazement, endearing love, and wonder that will not allow him to take his wide eyes off of Jesus. Jesus’ disciples can’t take their wide eyes off the man. Their minds race as they try to figure out how they’re going to describe the scene to their wives when they get home.

As Jesus leaves the region, this man pleads to go with him. Jesus refuses, sending the man home back to his family as a "show and tell" project for God's power. The scripture says: "So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed." Today, I am amazed by this man's story. I’m amazed at a Savior who chases storms because he knows there are people in the vortex, people he alone can save. He is the Savior who is our refuge, one who saves and helps in our present trouble. He is my refuge and strength. I praise Him in my home and the surrounding cities because he alone sets me free. He alone is my comfort and help.

Last week I took Tyler to Union University for the second time. We moved him into a new apartment. We purchased new clothes, sheets, linens and junk food. It was not as emotionally difficult to take my son the second time, until we said goodbye. My tears flowed and we embraced again in prayer. I got in my truck, and every square inch of the interior reeked with loneliness. I didn’t want to be in that cab alone. This time I knew what to do. I prayed, "Lord, you are my very present help in times of trouble, I am not alone, you are here with me and you are my ‘enough.’ I trust you to go with me all the way home. I don't know where the feeling went, but it was gone. I didn’t hear squealing in the distance but I felt like a man sitting at the feet of Jesus in awe.

Thank You Lord Jesus for being a storm chaser for me!

Ed Litton

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Mix

Life on earth is a mixture. We may want it to be purely one thing or another, but in fact it’s a combination of bad, sometimes desperate things and good, even silver linings. There are hues and shadows as well as rich colors. This isn’t a statement of moral relativism. It’s just reality. This mixture is the product of our fall. When we, the human race, chose to sin we chose to suffer, and in that suffering God's grace was ready to bring hope, comfort and healing. Grace anticipates a mix. Every dark cloud has a ray of hope and every bright day has a threat on the horizon.

Before we despair, we need to remember that God's grace is in the mixture and God does the mixing. We deserve all darkness. Hell is described as a place of "utter darkness" and that is what I deserve. But the grace of God brings hope and healing, transforming what we deserve into what we can never deserve.

Sitting with a friend in the fight of his life against a powerful cancer, I marvel at the grace of God sustaining him and giving him profound perspective. He cannot explain it, nor can I, but he is grateful for the insights God is giving to him, and even though he would rather not have the threat of death hanging over him, he would not trade it for the grace he finds from God.
Two women with the same name, Mary of Magdalena and another who was known as "the other Mary," made their way to the tomb where Jesus' body was lying. They courageously took on the task of cleaning up the mess others made and tying the loose ends surrounding the horrifying death they could not look upon nor turn their eyes from. Light was breaking in the east, but they knew that the darkness best set the mood of their hearts. Sorrow wore on them like thick uncomfortable wool. The steps they took were slow and painful. They moved forward out of love for the man who died.

Several confusing things suddenly happened. A violent earthquake shook, a brilliant angelic visitor appeared, slamming the guards surrounding the tomb of Jesus on the ground. The two Marys were overwhelmed, which explains the angel’s words: "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, he is risen, just as he said."
When the two Marys left to tell the others, the Bible simply says in Matthew 28:8: "So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples."

Did you see the mix? Afraid yet filled with joy? Get used to glorious experiences mixed in the less than wonderful realities. Joy in the midst of fear. Love in the midst of heartache. Peace in the midst of the storm. These are but the fringes of God's power, but do not deny this is God's power. Thank God that a day is coming when there will be no more mixture. Today I rejoice in the mix. I expect it now, even look for it, less grudgingly than before, actually, because I know He is in the mix.
Ed Litton

Friday, February 08, 2008

Pictures from Union

My sons Josh and Tyler caught my bug for ascetics, film and television.  I love photography and film so that has been a great way for us to work on projects together over the years.  Last Wednesday Josh and I drove to Jackson, Tennessee to be with Tyler. 

Josh went in an official capacity as a photo journalist for Fox News channel 10 in Mobile.

I went in my official capacity of concerned father. 

These are a couplel of my pictures to help you see how utterly devastating this storm was at Union.  I post these also to remind you to pray for the rebuilding of a great school.  

Ed Litton

Thursday, February 07, 2008

My Latest Storm Story

Sometimes when it rains it pours, and sometimes the wind blows. My son Tyler is a freshman at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Over a week ago I went through the painful process of helping him move into his dorm. Both Tammy and I were dreading this experience; I was now dreading it alone. Armed with the truth that hard things are just a part of my life, I proceeded intrepidly as the day drew near. My emotions were out of my control. Tears sat on the edge of every word. I hugged Tyler as we said goodbye. I prayed over him and blessed him with the blessing of the father. I knew this moment was significant as he transitioned from dependance upon me as his source of protection to God the father. "Lord, help Tyler accept that as a man, you are his only real source of life and strength. I release him to you and your sovereign care."

There is something about being a father that I cherish and that honestly I find it difficult to surrender. It is the call of God upon my life to provide for and protect my children. It has become my instinct and my passion. The emotions I felt at releasing Tyler are not new; I have felt them at a similar moment in Joshua's life. I traced the various colored wires of this tangled emotion to a source. I felt as if I was abandoning my boy. No wonder I was having an emotional meltdown. The truth is I was not abandoning but rather attending to an important transition in a man's life. A transition from one earthly father to greater trust in his heavenly father.

One week later to the day of this right of passage, I found myself once again in the position of feeling helpless and calling upon my Lord, fearing yet more loss. Union University was hit by an unseasonal category four tornado in the early evening. The epicenter was at the dorms, where Tyler lives. You can imagine my concern, but remember I left him in the hands of a greater father.

Today I stood in the midst of the rubble gasping to believe what my eyes were seeing. The chilling cold wind punctuates this hour with another reminder of nature's groaning and life's brevity since the fall of man.

Tyler is doing well physically, a little brushed emotionally, but in general he is doing fine. Tyler was reading Proverbs sixteen on his bed in his dorm when he heard a loud distant sound. He told me that the first thought was something his mother told him often during our many Mobile storm stories. "When we are under a tornado watch, and you hear a loud noise, put on your shoes, get a flashlight and move into an inside room of the house." With her words replaying through his mind, Tyler obeyed his mother's wise counsel.

Today, Josh and I have traveled to Jackson to be with Tyler. As we take measure of the massive destruction on the campus of Union University we are stunned. How can so many students escape death in the midst of widespread destruction? The only answer is a powerful sovereign Daddy who uses good and godly mothers who teach little boys to be men. I am proud of Tyler. I am very thankful for a godly woman named Tammy who loved her children enough to prepare them to be good men. I am grateful for our sovereign father who is worthy of our praise regardless of the outcome.

Ed Litton