Bad News…Good News…

“The Night Shift Begins,” © Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

Author-Artist’s Notes:  Recently a blogging friend asked if I ever painted lighthouses.  Although lighthouses are not frequently my subject of choice, I recognize that they hold profound symbolic significance for Christ followers.  And so, I took the plunge. This post is an extended version of a “Revue” post previously published in August of 2017.  My thoughts at that time, however,  fit this “lighthouse” painting best.  Thus, I have developed them more. Thank you, Sue, for prompting me to “revisit” the lighthouse theme.  🙂

©2018 Lynn Abbott

Caught in a sudden, severe thunderstorm, I cautiously picked my way along a major interstate.

We were just 45 minutes away from our destination, and yet, visibility was next to nothing.  And when my then eight-year-old son asked, “Are we there yet?” I didn’t know how to answer.

Quite frankly, given the dangerous downpour, I didn’t knew how long it would take to arrive safely at the hotel.

And that day, I certainly had what my grandmother called a “white knuckle moment.”  To say that I tightly gripped my car’s steering wheel would be an understatement.

I’ll say this much, however:  the cars traveling around me weren’t in any better shape.  None of us could see more than a few feet ahead of our vehicles.  Obviously, we were all in this together, and it wasn’t pretty.

I hugged the interstate shoulder and tried to keep the rear tail lights of the car directly ahead of me in view.  If I could just find an exit, I felt that I could pull over safely.

I wasn’t going to risk pulling over on the shoulder.  One of my fellow drivers might not see me and the potential for an accident was great.  And so I crept along, peering through the sheets of water that slammed my windshield.

Inside the car, an eerie silence prevailed.  My mother and son prayed fervently.

To this day, I’m sure that the only thing that I did right that day was to follow the rear tail lights of the car ahead of me.   I simply followed the leader, and fortunately for me, the leader happened to be an excellent driver.

Of course, a lot rested on the shoulders of the one out in front.  That always seems to be the case. Maybe, that’s why the apostle James said, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly,” (James 3:1).

Leadership requires a lot of strength and wisdom. And for the most part, there are no guarantees of safe arrival when someone says, “Follow Me.”

That day, I certainly had what my grandmother called a “white knuckle moment.”

I learned that as a child.  Neighborhood games of “Follow the Leader” truly reflected the leadership style of the one out in front.  And on one fateful day, my buddies wisely didn’t follow me to the letter of the game’s law.

After all, at age 9,  I was a bit of a dare-devil on my banana seat bike.  I decided to set a fast and daring pace. I must have felt pretty confident because I tried out a new trick.

Too bad for me! The bike design didn’t support such stunts.  I flipped over the handle bars and hit the asphalt pavement.

Splat.  Face plant.  And I chipped a newly acquired adult front tooth.

Yup, who you follow is vitally important.

Undoubtedly, we glean much from both good and bad news…the good news?  My friends didn’t follow suit.  The bad news?  My mother hurried me to the dentist that day.

Indeed, I think lighthouses supply us with a kind of “good news; bad news” scenario.  The bad news? If a sailor ignores a lighthouse or disregards its fog horn, he potentially pilots into grave danger.

If a ship approaches the shoreline in low visibility, it risks running aground or breaking up against the rocks.

Yup, who you follow is vitally important.

The good news, of course, is that someone built the lighthouse.  And the keeper faithfully maintains the light to direct those at sea.

Yet, a sailor must be willing to acknowledge the light, receive the warning or bad news, and then, trust the lighthouse to guide him to safety.

The whole bad news bit is probably the reason that many of God’s prophets failed the popularity test.  Even God’s people don’t want to hear the bad news, and many prophets cried, “Danger!” It was a thankless job.

In one prophet in particular, I see the heart of God (Lamentations 3:32, 33). As does Abba, Jeremiah grieved when he saw God’s children careening toward disaster.

Understandably, Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet.  After all, most of us dislike delivering bad news.

Jeremiah, in fact, attempted to resign from his position.

In Jeremiah 20: 8-9, he wrote, “…So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long  But if I say ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

A sailor must be willing to acknowledge the light, receive the warning or bad news, and then, trust the lighthouse to guide him to safety.

But as Paul says in Romans 11:29, “For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.”

God called Jeremiah to be a “lighthouse”; Jeremiah could not help but shine.

He has actually been nicknamed by theologians as “the weeping prophet.”   He identified with those he warned.  Like a lighthouse keeper, his heart was for those at sea.

“Watch out… dangerous rocks, shallow waters threaten your ship,” the fog horn mourns.

And Jeremiah warned, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength, and whose heart turns away from the LORD,'” (Jeremiah 17:5).

Danger awaits the traveler.  That’s the bad news.  And the prophet weeps.

Indeed, Abba weeps when you and I sail into danger– when we ignore His warnings,  rely upon our own understanding or simply confront the fiery darts of the enemy, (Matthew 23:37).

On the other hand, although Abba loves us tenderly, that doesn’t mean He soft-pedals His warnings. Abba doesn’t play games when our very lives are in jeopardy.  He sounds the alarm; He speaks directly.  And He doesn’t mince words.

After all, genuine love protects.  You can be sure that when a child heads toward destruction, a loving parent will speak out.

Abba doesn’t play games when our very lives are in jeopardy.

And Abba’s love for us is greater than any love we will ever know in this world.  For this reason, He calls my name, your name.  He faithfully warns us:

“In this world, you have tribulation…” (John 16:33b)

Indeed, just as Jeremiah wept for his people, Israel, when they faced tidal waves, floundered upon the sea or even lost their spiritual compass, Abba also weeps with compassion when you and I navigate life’s inevitable storms.

And this tenderness drives our loving, heavenly Father to sound the warning bell…

And the light shines even as the fog horn sounds.  The fog horn bellows soulfully, and light redirects steadily.

Good news, bad news…

The light shines even as the fog horn sounds.

Yes, the Light of the World calls out to you and me: “…In the world you have tribulation…”

But then, He adds, “…but take courage; I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33).

Life’s seas beat hard upon the prow; even so, Abba calls out, “Follow me.”

Friday brought the cross; Sunday proclaimed the resurrection.  Bad news, good news.

Indeed, when darkness boasts and fog threatens, God’s grace shines brightest.

Without a doubt, when thunder roars, you and I can trust Abba’s tail lights.  His truth shines, (Psalm 119:105).  Grace filters through the fog like a brilliant flood light.  Our Savior graciously illuminates the darkness, one passage at a time.

“The storm rages, but I am here,” our heavenly Father gently reminds us.

If I have learned nothing else on my life’s journey, at least I have come to understand this…

Visibility in this world frequently runs low.  Storms come. Darkness and fog surround me.

When darkness boasts and fog threatens, God’s grace shines brightest.

And when I bury my head, refuse to heed God’s compassionate call, or fail to follow His loving light, I fall flat on my face in the dark.

Splat.  Uh, huh. I have never been the ideal choice for “Follow the Leader.”

But I know the One who is.

Of this I am sure: Abba’s light is steadfast and true.  Upon His word, we can rely.

And following His lead, we will not become casualties on the side of the road.

“To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy–to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen,” ~Jude :24