Archive for July, 2013

“…Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths….” – Isaiah 2:3b ESV

The way of God is subtle,
Yet it always is sublime.
It guides the course of history,
And endures the march of time.
His ways are always higher
Than are the ways of man;
Our dreams and our ambitions
Are like castles made of sand. Led by Heaven's Dove
If only we would trust His love,
And give Him all our cares,
His Holy Spirit could wash us clean
Of all sin’s polluted airs.
If only we’d surrender pride
And learn to trust His love
We then could walk in Heaven’s peace,
While led by Heaven’s Dove.
So now I’ll walk along with Him:
He knows the path to tread;
May I lay aside each encumbrance,
And all sin and self now shed.
I no longer doubt His wisdom;
Nor doubt His love for me.
He knows what He is doing .
And will lead me faithfully.

“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21 ESV

Copyright © Thom Mollohan.

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Shyrah was a Swallowtail caterpillar not quite like all the others. She had been hatched first of all her one hundred brothers and sisters and had been the first one to try anything new ever since. Fun-loving and social, she lived life on the wild side. She would climb up the highest, in spite of the ever-present danger of predatory birds. She would journey out into the back yard the farthest, no matter that it might be Friday and the lawn was always mown on Fridays. And she would always eat the most, no matter that her appetite, voracious even for a caterpillar, was carrying her far and away beyond what others felt was safe and comfortable.

One day, however, she began to feel strange. A joy and thrill were so powerfully bubbling up from within her that she began to sing hearty and loud notes with her tiny caterpillar voice. Oh, and such thoughts were taking shape in her mind! She began to dream of flying, longing to take wing and be lifted up over the earth and soar in the grand and glorious sapphire-blue sky!

She began to dream of flying, longing to take wing and be lifted up over the earth and soar in the grand and glorious sapphire-blue sky!

She began to dream of flying, longing to take wing and be lifted up over the earth and soar in the grand and glorious sapphire-blue sky!

And so her songs floated on to the other caterpillars. Some who listened found in themselves a similar stirring and a tiny gleam of hope for something more was awakened within them. Others, though, heard her songs and were angered. They were at first annoyed with Shyrah for they thought her too preoccupied with her flighty fantasies to stay focused on what they felt was her supreme duty… that of carefully and consistently eating and digesting. Then, in their pride, they became jealous of how others were touched by her melody of hope and her dreams of being lifted out of the mud and mire of only the “here-and-now.”

But she still sang, undaunted by their looks and their words, undeterred from the great longing in her heart. Peger, one of Shyrah’s brothers, heard her sweet refrain and found in himself a yearning also to fly and so he began to sing, too.

But when he saw the sneers and heard the snickering of those around him, his song would fade and a worried and wearied look would turn his handsome caterpillar countenance into a study of awkward ambivalence.

As the hours passed into days, Shyrah sang and waited for the day when her dreams would be realized while Peger fretted and wondered what others were thinking of him.

Finally, as the early morning sun began to peep just over the pale eastern horizon, a distant droning was heard. No one knew what the sound was, nor did they know what it meant. Shyrah and a few others were too busy to pay any attention: so many wonderful things were taking place inside themselves that they had begun to spin silk and were wrapping tiny threads about themselves until they were completely robed in a white garment. And, while in this incredible chrysalis stage, the transformation continued.

The droning grew louder and louder.

The droning grew louder and louder.

Meanwhile, as the droning sound grew louder and louder, Peger hesitated. He had seen Shyrah completely cover herself in her cocoon of webbing. As his eyes remained frozen on her unmoving form, he wondered if she had finally lost her mind and had ultimately deluded herself and others into an early death. And while he hesitated, wondering about all of this, he failed to notice a small Trichogramma wasp hovering closer and closer behind him.

Suddenly, his back was ablaze with piercing pain. His body curled up and nearly fell from the leaf he had just been eating but he managed to regain his hold just in time. “Ouch!” he exclaimed, looking around wildly. As his eyes surveyed the leaves about him, he saw some other chrysalises but also saw some other caterpillars looking as surprised and as pained as he.

Peger sighed heavily at the loss of his sister, Shyrah, and of others. He even shed a tear or two. But then he shrugged his little caterpillar shoulders and resumed eating like nothing had happened. Well, at least for a little while. It wasn’t long until he began to feel strange inside again, only this time it was NOT a good thing. Something was wrong but he didn’t know what. Pain began to radiate out from the sore spot on his back but soon gave way to excruciating agony within. Quickly, his strength faded and he would have fallen from his leaf had his little caterpillar toes not been embedded in the leaf’s surface. He could eat no more and soon became completely listless.

He could only watch passively when something inside finally cut through his skin and emerged onto the leaf beside Peger’s broken and ruined body. It was the larva of a Trichogramma wasp. Looking quite happy and healthy, it ignored Peger and began busily wrapping itself in threads stolen from Peger’s own body until it had completely cocooned itself in silk, humming to itself all the while it worked.

Shortly afterwards, Peger finally died. He had only a vague awareness of what had actually happened to him and of the opportunity lost now to him forever. The might-have-beens would never be for poor Peger.

A few weeks passed. A couple of leaves away, a cocoon began to tremble and a tiny opening appeared halfway up its length. In only about ten seconds, a wet and crumpled Swallowtail butterfly emerged and climbed to the edge of its leaf. It was Shyrah. The excitement and thrill of finally coming out of her cocoon were very nearly too much for her to contain. She pumped her little wings up and down until they filled with fluid and had dried. Then, just as she was about to take her first flight, she paused, sad for all her brothers and sisters who were missing out on this amazing moment, yet glad for all those who were there.

Just as she was about to take her first flight, she paused, sad for all her brothers and sisters who were missing out on this amazing moment.

Just as she was about to take her first flight, she paused, sad for all her brothers and sisters who were missing out on this amazing moment.

She spread her wings and launched herself up and away from the leaf on which she had lived for such a long time. Exulting in her new and transformed life, she sped away into the sapphire-blue sky, the air about her filled with the song of victory that she sang.

“The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6b-8 ESV). But “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.  Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!  You have multiplied, O LORD my God, Your wondrous deeds and Your thoughts toward us; none can compare with You!  I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told” (Psalms 40:1-5 ESV).

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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The heart-breaking story of Trayvon Martin’s death at the hands of George Zimmerman is a tragedy that not only lingers because of the moral outrage we feel, but one that escalates because of its inherent implications.  I am the father of three young men.  Were any one of them to become the target of a miscarriage of justice (particularly because of the color of his skin), the anger and frustration that I would feel would undoubtedly be incalculable.  And were we to compound together the anger and frustration felt by all who can see themselves in the shoes of Trayvon’s family, we will find that we have a whole that is much more than the sum of its parts because the anger of each of us, as we vent it, feeds also the anger within ourselves and in others.

There are a number of responses that conceivably could be set in motion (and some of them have been).  Some are appropriate, but some are not.  Simply put, fixing what is wrong is right.  Doing wrong as a reaction to being wronged is… well, wrong also.

The Lord Himself speaks to these matters when He says, “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15 ESV).  The fact that the George Zimmerman was not found guilty may well appear to be an injustice:  some see the verdict as a racially motivated sanction of a racially motivated crime.

when all else is said and done, there is the heart-breaking tragedy of a mother and a father who have lost their son in a senseless killing.  There is the tragedy of the empty chair at the dinner table, the empty bed in the night, and the empty place in the hearts of those who knew and loved Trayvon Martin.

When all else is said and done, there is the heart-breaking tragedy of a mother and a father who have lost their son in a senseless killing. There is the tragedy of the empty chair at the dinner table, the empty bed in the night, and the empty place in the hearts of those who knew and loved Trayvon Martin.

However, it is important to acknowledge the intentional limits of the justice system here:  the jury had one basic decision to make in this trial – to find Zimmerman guilty of homicide beyond a reasonable doubt… or not.  While the limits here may come across as protecting someone who may be guilty, those same limits are in place to protect those who may be innocent in other situations.   Those limits must be rigidly adhered to in a consistent way, or those limits cease to be protections.

In the case of when justice is not served because its own hands are bound in the safety nets that are in place to prevent greater injustices, we must be wary of lynch mob mentality that is stirred up by the hate-mongering of those who love to hate.  In fact, God again addresses this in the previously mentioned passage (Leviticus 19:16 ESV) when He says, “You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.”

Yes, it is quite possible that a man who is guilty of an outrageous crime escapes the justice of the court.  But in our anger we must take care to not sin also by either retaliating or using such tragedy as tools for the provoking of others to retaliation.  Not only does our retaliating not achieve righteousness (translate as “rightness” or “justice”) that we say we wish to see, but it also incurs for us an ultimate judgment from God Himself.  But it’s not enough to just not retaliate or slander another (or his race) when we suffer anger over perceived injustices, we also must not let our anger instill within us attitudes of unforgiveness and hate towards others.

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:17-18 ESV).

There are layers of tragedy here.  There is the spiritual tragedy of course.  All the injustice that runs rampant today is injustice that a just God must and will judge.  Hence, the admonitions from the Lord in the previously mentioned Scriptures are all capped with God’s declaration that, “I am the LORD.”  No injustice will endure but all injustice will be settled by the great Judge Himself.

There is also the tragedy of the disease of racism still infecting our society.  And it has become such a convoluted and complex problem socially that we can see its manifestations in all groups:  within black, Native American, Latino, Asian and white arenas.

Then there is the tragedy of hate and unforgiveness becoming so entrenched in a people’s identity that it becomes what defines them (and this is indeed a tragedy).  Are any of us intended by our Creator to be known by our victimization?  Or by how we matched hate with hate?  No.  We are meant for something other than that.  It is a sad thing when we cannot see any other way to spend ourselves.

But, when all else is said and done, there is the heart-breaking tragedy of a mother and a father who have lost their son in a senseless killing.  There is the tragedy of the empty chair at the dinner table, the empty bed in the night, and the empty place in the hearts of those who knew and loved Trayvon Martin.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Red-gold beams of sunset were piercing the torn remnants of glowering storm clouds that were fleetly soaring overhead as I pursued completion of my late evening errands last Wednesday. Passing through curtains of rain that kept abruptly starting and ending as if someone were flicking a water faucet on and off, I followed the course of the road as it veered southward. As I did so, a vividly colorful leg of a rainbow came into my line of sight, leaping upward into the sky, fading into the hanging mists.

As that glad sight greeted me, the gloom of the stormy evening seemed to momentarily surrender to the cheer and hope that the rainbow promised. But then, the vision faded and I could no longer see the rainbow when I had passed through to the other side of a downpour: the rainbow seemed gone.

I sighed and drove on, resigning myself to having “lost the rainbow” and my mind soon pressed forward again to all the varieties of activities and responsibilities that lay before me in the days ahead. But, just when I had all but forgotten about the rainbow, before me sprang up the other leg of the rainbow, serenely sure of itself amid all the squalls raging around it and the fading light of the setting sun.

Even so, God’s promises made to us, who dwell in the Valley of Sorrow and Strife, are lifelines of hope and beaming rays of encouragement. We see those promises when we read the Bible with open minds and open hearts. We hear them when they are preached to us from the pulpit. And we come to know them by choosing to trust them while plodding along the paths of life.

Yet we stumble when clouds of worry obscure our blues skies of optimism. We fret when the rains of conflict and difficulty relentlessly pour down upon us and erode our hope. And we often despair when the floodwaters of grief and tragedy rise and threaten to drown us in misery and defeat.

But God did not create us in order to drown us in futility and defeat. He did not send His Son into the world to redeem us from sin’s awful power just so we could dwell forever in the stagnant waters of worldly confusion. After the flood waters had finally dissipated after the Great Flood (chapters 6 & 7 of Genesis), the Lord Himself placed a sign of His determination to lead us through the muck and mire of our selfish preoccupations.

“And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.  When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember My covenant that is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth’” (Genesis 9:12-17 ESV).

And though floods have come and submerged different parts of the earth since then, still they are merely faint echoes of the destruction and judgment of the Great Flood of Noah’s day. Never again will He submerge the whole of our planet under water in order to punish all life for the great wickedness of which humanity is capable (see Genesis 6:5-7). How do we know? Because He promised.

When troubles come, we may lose sight of the rainbow of His promises for those who have been saved. We may forget His unfailing love and wonder why bother with being faithful followers of Christ. In our times of discouragement, our hearts may cry out, “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?  Has His steadfast love forever ceased? Are His promises at an end for all time?” (Psalm 77:7-8 ESV).

But if we’ll simply cling to His promises of faithfulness to us, His promises to turn “evil” (or painful circumstances) around for good, and His promises of eternal hope and everlasting life, we’ll come through the mists of doubt and finally see “the other end of the rainbow” of each of His promises.

If we’ll simply cling to His promises, we’ll come through the mists of doubt and finally see “the other end of the rainbow”!

If we’ll simply cling to His promises, we’ll come through the mists of doubt and finally see “the other end of the rainbow”!

“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember Your wonders of old.  I will ponder all Your work, and meditate on Your mighty deeds.  Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God Who works wonders; You have made known Your might among the peoples…. When the waters saw You, O God, when the waters saw You, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled.  The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; Your arrows flashed on every side.  The crash of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; Your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook.  Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet Your footprints were unseen” (Psalm 77:11-14, 16-19 ESV).

Are you struggling with doubt? Do you wrestle with discouragement? Have your feet faltered and your shoulders become weighed down with a load of resentment or bitterness? If so, lift up your eyes and remember your rainbow. Walk once more through the rains of trial and tribulation, knowing that these will pass in time and that the sun will shine again. Though you might wade through pools of regret or shame, trust God to forgive and wash you from sin and past mistakes. Trust Him to remember you even if you’ve forgotten Him in the past.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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If there were ever a time that we as Americans were sliding down a steep and slippery slope of cultural implosion, now is that time.  Our moral confusion has produced for us a political climate in which evil is upheld while those who hold to a standard of right and wrong are villanized and are held in contempt.

For one thing, gone is any semblance of a collective adherence to a biblical interpretation of marriage (by which I mean a holy institution created by God for His divine purpose, a uniting of a man and a woman exclusively to one another until death parts them).  For another, brutal and savage go the “Pro-life and Pro-choice” wars (but how can they not be with the lives of millions upon millions of innocent babies and misled and oppressed women continually at stake?).  Not only that, but our own government spies upon its own private citizens and can act with apparent impunity upon anyone who disagrees with it (through the strong arm of its Internal Revenue Service and, conceivably, its Department of Homeland Security).

Of course, the concept of “freedom” is rapidly morphing.  In general, the term is associated today with boundless access to whatever privilege and pleasure we desire.  Such sentiment finds attached to it an idea of “entitlement”, an attitude that fosters laziness, irresponsibility, cruelty, and even insurrection (a rebellion to the traditions and values that ironically have preserved for us what we celebrate every Independence Day).  Such entitlement is nothing more than the institutionalization of envy and the political policies that are being employed are merely expressions of social jealousy.  Civil rights are one thing:  they are worthy causes if and when they hold to the standards that God has instituted.  But it is an insult to those who have spent (and lost) their lives for justice and equity when we apply the term “civil right” to anything that is ignoble and counterproductive to the ideals of honor, courage, integrity, compassion and self-sacrifice just as much as it is a farce to call “freedom” our tendency to have temper tantrums whenever we cannot possess what we have not earned, cannot take whatever we want from others, and cannot do whatever any inclination our passions and sloth suggest to us (no matter who we hurt if we were to have our way).

And just what does it mean to be free anyway? Does it mean I can have whatever I want whenever I want it?  Does it mean that the government bribes me with material promises at the expense of privacy?  Does it mean that I should consider the government my greatest friend no matter that I am compelled by the courts to compromise my religious convictions?  Does it mean that the government is a well-spring of justice and is the “big brother” that will see to it that all my needs (and the needs of my family) are met… as long as I cooperate with its policies – no matter that I am no longer permitted to speak out against social ills?  Is any of this or even some of it what freedom really is?

Certainly not.  What we have done is taken the high and hallowed concept of “freedom” and distorted it just as the serpent distorted it in the ears of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3).  We have chosen to take our eyes off the Giver of liberty and make it yet another vehicle of self-worship.  We have been given the opportunity, as private citizens, to put God first in all we do, but over the course of a couple of hundred years we have made it our license to bow down to our own greatness and idolize blessings instead of the Blesser.

Even now, we look to government (as an agency of our collective will) to do our bidding, not realizing that with every new policy and law it passes or mandates, we become entwined with yet another shackle.  And God permits it, allowing us to have what we think we want, while we fail to realize that He will at some point say, “Enough.”

“The LORD looks down from heaven; He sees all the children of men; from where He sits enthroned He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He Who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.  The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.  The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.  Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love….  Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield” (Psalm 33:13-18, 20 ESV).

During this Independence Day weekend, consider what it is that you are really celebrating. Think well on what it means to be free.  Thank God for the opportunity that He has given you to worship and serve Him with all your heart.  And remember:  The surest path back to bondage is the abuse of freedom.

 Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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