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Hear that whistle blowing

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mark 13:33, 35-36
Jesus says, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come … You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

There is no more apocalyptic chapter in the Bible than Mark 13. Jesus gives me one way to prepare for the moment when everything will change in an instant: “Watch.”

All the time? How? Perhaps I can eat and sleep and laugh and love and work and play without fear, if I ask and then allow God to train my mind and body to be alert at the same time. Jesus learned to listen so well that he “only did what (his) Father was doing.” He wants me to learn to listen like that, and watch like that. Can I do it?

Our grandson Jack will be three in February. On Memorial Day he rode a new electric train around the Springfield (IL) zoo. He was not quite as tall as the locomotive.

The next morning Jack sat outside the Amtrak station near the track, quite relaxed in his carry-along car seat. The City of New Orleans was a few minutes late. Then we heard its horn and the steel blue engine filled up all the space around us. It pulls more than a million pounds. It was a hundred feet tall. Jack grabbed Margaret's hand. His wide eyes followed the engine without blinking.

The air brakes hissed, the horn blew, the train stopped. The conductor came outside to welcome his new passengers, and Jack was not letting go of his Oma's hand. He didn’t say a word.

Since then, Jack continues to eat and sleep and laugh and love, and he hears a train whistle before anyone else. Instantly alert, he shouts, “Train!” It is usually miles away. I might not have noticed it at all. Jack, on the other hand, hears and feels that whistle all the way into his bones. His eyes are wide. He is determined to be ready this time … for whatever happens next.

Father, you will teach me if I want to learn. Break into my life and widen my eyes, and then surround me with your love. You never sleep, so I can sleep. You do everything that needs to be done, and so I can “be.” Forgive me for taking you for granted; teach me to hear the smallest whisper and know it’s You.

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