Severe Weather + Mr. Miyagi

Friday, June 12th, 2020

Severe Weather + Mr. Miyagi, Audio Version

In this blog post, I wish to take you to the Nile delta, where I invite you close your eyes and imagine some extremely severe weather. Picture a severe and intense thunder storm, with lots of rumbling, tremendous explosive cracks, and frequent, intense flashes of lightning. Now add some sustained heavy hail — extremely heavy hail, pummeling your rooftop for a prolonged period of time. The sound of the thunder and the hail terrifies everyone, especially the crying children. The hail is coming down so hard that you wonder if your roof can withstand the intensity of the bombardment, not to mention the weight of the accumulating hailstones. If you briefly consider whether to run outside to bring your animals to shelter, you immediately banish the thought. It is far too dangerous. You realize that you simply cannot go out there, because the bodily risk to yourself is too great. The surprising size and sheer speed of the hailstones could severely injure or even kill you. Sadly, neither the animals nor the maturing crops will survive out there; nor would you, should you foolishly go out there. You have no choice but to cower in fear as you shelter in place, until this ferocious and fearsome storm finally passes. 

What you might not know is that your national leaders were actually forewarned about it. They had been told in advance that this destructive storm was going to occur. They had a heads-up. They had been given a very accurate weather forecast. Not only were they told that the storm was coming, they were advised to tell the populace to protect themselves, their families, their animals, and their neighbors. Some of your leaders took heed of the forewarning and spread the word. But many of them scoffed and chose to ignore it. They chose to ignore it because they did not like the messenger. They held him and his unknown god in disdain.     

The Book of Exodus says that this historically unprecedented hailstorm actually pummeled the property of the polytheistic Egyptians. This plague was the seventh of the ten plagues visited upon the Egyptians and their obstinate Pharaoh.

Exodus 9:20-21 says this: “Then whoever feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses; but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the LORD left his slaves and his livestock in the field.” 

Everything hinged on how the servants of Pharaoh responded to the word of the LORD. Did they fear the word of the LORD or not? Did they consider the word of the LORD credible or not? Were they humble enough to accept what they heard and act upon it? Some of them were, some were not.

Consider that. Put yourself in their sandals. It is sobering.

Enough said? I could end this blog post right here. If I say nothing more, I have given you enough to consider for today. But I want to connect this to my over-arching objective. If you have followed my previous posts, you know I have one over-arching objective, which is to interpret the timely and pertinent Book of Revelation.

Do you remember the character Mr. Miyagi from the movie Karate Kid? The movie came out when I was a teenager. Karate was a popular martial-art back in the 80s. Near the beginning of the movie, a would-be martial arts student played by Ralph Macchio asks Mr. Miyagi to teach him karate. Mr. Miyagi agrees, but first asks his eager teenage student to paint his fence and wax his car. Mr. Miyagi insists that Ralph paint his fence in a very exact and somewhat strange way, using a particular up-down vertical form. Mr. Miyagi also insisted that Ralph wax his car in a very exact and somewhat strange way, using a particular clockwise/counter-clockwise circular form. What Mr. Miyagi did not explain up front was that Ralph would actually be learning karate moves by painting as instructed and by waxing as instructed. Ralph was learning proper karate techniques without even realizing it. Painting a particular way was a karate technique. Waxing a particular way was another karate technique. Ralph nearly gave in to impatience and gave up on Mr. Miyagi before everything was explained. There was a method to Mr. Miyagi’s madness. 

There is a method to my historical madness. Through many of the historical accounts I portray, I am walking my readers or listeners through the events that I believe are subtly referenced in the Book of Revelation. Sometimes I talk about other historical events, simply because I enjoy doing so; I was a history major, after all. But more often than not, I focus on the events to which the Book of Revelation refers or alludes. The seventh plague on Egypt is one such allusion. In context of the whole plague-filled chapter, Revelation 8:7 seems to subtly point back to the hailstorm of Exodus chapter nine. If so, why? Why does Revelation 8:7 point back to seventh plague on Egypt? I want to suggest that the answer may have something to do with how someone hears and responds to the word of the LORD. Does that person fear and heed the word of the LORD? Or does that person scoff at the word of the LORD and reject it?  

If my reading is right, then the hail represents the judgment of God. Those who heed the word of the LORD are protected when judgment passes through. Those who do not heed the word of the LORD are pummeled and suffer loss.   

Take heed to the weather forecast. Take heed to the word of the LORD.

Unexpected Turbulence

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Clouds Below, What’s Ahead?
Unexpected Turbulence, Audio Version

Back in the day, in the old pre-flight advisory safety announcements, an airline spokesperson (usually a bored stewardess rehashing a memorized script, intercom in hand) would advise passengers to please wear their seatbelts “in case of unexpected turbulence.” I would often tighten my seatbelt a bit at that point. Unexpected turbulence might occur. I had been told. Have my readers/listeners noticed that the phrase “unexpected turbulence” has been replaced with the words “rough air”? Personally, I prefer the original phrase — unexpected turbulence to rough air. Ruff hair. I’m having a ruff hair day.   

Speaking of which, years ago I worked with a man named Rob. His name, I have tweaked. Rob’s job required that he travel from city to city across a large country in Asia. To traverse the long distances involved, Rob had the option of traveling by train or by plane. To save himself time, Rob would choose to fly, when possible. Rob thus became a frequent flyer, flying frequently over and across a very large country in Asia, one that shall go unspecified. But if you would like to know which one, imagine how someone from Boston might say the word diner. The country rhymes with that. People from Boston often drop the letter r.  

One of Rob’s flights (in the country that kinda rhymes with diner) suddenly got very, very violently bumpy. Without much, if any, warning, the plane flew into some incredibly rough air. Unexpected turbulence… it occurred. Many people on board the flight were not wearing their seatbelts. Human pinball — that’s the description I believe Rob used. People were thrown around the inside of the airplane. People were bouncing off the ceiling of the plane. People got seriously hurt. Rob, however, did have his seatbelt on, probably because he was used to hearing the same old boring, rehashed precautionary announcement. Rob was not hurt, just shaken. By virtue of listening to the same message repeatedly, Rob had been habituated into safety, into wearing his seatbelt. 

To repeat, he had heard the same precautionary announcement, over and over, ad nauseam. He had been habituated, even tediously so, into proper practice. Therefore, when unexpected turbulence came, he was ready, without even knowing it. In the moment it mattered most, he was ready. Although he was very alarmed, he was unharmed, unlike many of his fellow passengers. 

Regarding the very perilous period before his second coming, Jesus emphasized to his listeners the importance of informed readiness: “See, I have told you beforehand.” If you want to know the context of his statement, go read Matthew 24:25 and the surrounding verses. Here’s the same precautionary statement, translated a bit differently: “Behold, I have told you in advance.”

Be Vigilant

We have been told in advance. Expect unexpected turbulence. Be prepared. Be ready. It will come when you’re not expecting it. He will come when we’re not expecting him. All of which is alarming to hear, and ought to prompt some questions, such as: How do I expect the unexpected? How can I be prepared? How can I get ready? How can I protect others around me? What should I do?

Here, let me help you tighten your seat belt. First, you should read the safety instructions provided. They’re easily within reach. All you need to do is take the time to read them. Also, listen to the flight attendants, even if they are boring and mumbling their way through the same old message. They went through extensive training on this — at least they should have. Plus, you usually can tell if they know what they’re talking about. Above all, pay attention to the pilot. He knows what’s going on. He knows what’s up ahead, even when we don’t. You can even call upon him. Unlike a lot of other pilots, he’s truly the very best. And he’s quite willing to hear you and respond to you.

Just so you know, I do have some training as a flight attendant. I cannot see what’s ahead like the pilot can; but I will tell you — from experience and from what I’ve learned — that it feels like we’re already hitting some rough air, some turbulence. It could get worse. I hope I’m wrong. But I think you ought to know. Buckle up, just to be safe.    

Oh, and keep a wary eye on the leader of the country that kinda rhymes with diner. He is behaving a lot like Decius did. See my previous post if this confuses you.