Rained out

With all of the rain we’ve had lately, my son Ezra and I have noticed a common sight dotting the sidewalks while we’re on our way to school in the mornings—earthworms. Most have baked into a crispy twig in the hot sun, but a few still have a little wriggle in them. Ezra rescues the live ones by transferring them to the grass and dirt running alongside the sidewalk. (His benevolence to the worms slows down our trek, but I can’t deny him the good feeling of starting a day of 3rd grade knowing you’ve made a difference!)

 

Ezra asked me why we’ve been seeing so many worms. Why do they come out of their safe burrows just to die on the sidewalk? It’s a good question. Other than drying out in the sun, they could also be eaten by birds or stepped on. Why would they risk it? I just had to find out! Google to the rescue!

 

From what I read, it was commonly assumed that worms emerged after a lot of rain because they would drown in their underground tunnels. But more recent science disputes this. Worm scientists (that’s probably a thing) argue that worms are designed in a way that they could stay submerged underwater for days. Back to the worm lab (which is also probably a thing)!

 

One hypothesis speculates that the vibration of the rain dropping above them imitates the sound of a mole or some other worm-eating predator, and the worms crawl away from the anticipated danger. Another idea is that they use the slick, wet environment to migrate. I can just imagine the worms watching the weather forecast to see when the conditions would be favorable to travel so they could make a trip to visit grandma. (Okay, that’s definitely not a thing, even on the internet.) Another idea is that the worms surface to mate, but they (worm scientists) say only a few species do this, and knowing that worm babies don’t just appear out of nowhere but not wanting to google “Where do worm babies come from?” I left that hypothesis off my list for Ezra.

 

Even though a worm has no eyes or ears and a teeny-tiny brain, there are way too many similarities between us and them. We often ignore our protective design and take unnecessary risks. There are many times when we fear the wrong things (or people), and our panic makes everything much, much worse. But, if you’re a lucky earthworm, a sweet 10-year old boy will see that you’re stranded on the concrete, and even though you’re there by your own folly, he’ll lift you to safety.

Take shelter

Have you ever thought about the purpose of a blanket fort? You’ve probably made one before: blankets strewn across chairs and pillows on the floor, like a sheik’s tent nestled by a desert oasis. From an adult’s perspective, it looks like blankets that will have to be refolded and throw pillows not designed for sitting upon and chairs which have been dragged to new locations, leaving scuff marks on the hardwood floor. But to kids it’s a shelter. A warm, shadowed place for them to feel cozy and safe.

 

Our family recently attended a funeral for a dear friend. As the six of us lined up and walked down a church pew, our youngest son was the last of the group to be seated. Not overly pleased to be in “Big Church” on a Thursday, he plopped down with the tall end of the church pew on his left and me on his right. In spite of the loving, celebratory tone for the memorial service, I noticed our son scooting in to the protection of my side. I rested my arm behind him on the back of the pew, and he leaned in. The solid wood on his left and the warmth of his mom on his right was comforting and protective. It was a safe shelter in a stormy place where fathers pass away and people around him cry through several tissues.

 

The Book of Psalms is full of language describing a desire to feel that kind of protection and shelter in moments of sadness and fear.

 

“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 17 (NIV)

 

“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27 (NIV)

 

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4 (NIV)

 

“I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” Psalm 61 (NIV)

 

With 2017 coming to an end, the general consensus is that it’s been a tumultuous year. Floods and fires and fighting in Washington has made me yearn for a safe and protective place. I want the shelter a baby bird feels as he draws in to the soft feathers of his mother, when she pulls her child in close and rests her wing on top of him.

 

I crave the dark, muffled stillness of a blanket fort. Heavy blankets draped across chairs and me cuddled beneath.

 

But most of all, I desire the same thing the Psalmist David did so many thousands of years ago. I crave a refuge, a warm safety, a shelter.

Fire insurance

Several years ago, my family took a trip to Historic Charleston, South Carolina. For those in our family who are history buffs, it was such a treat to walk amongst those buildings and streets, some 300 years old or more.

 

We strolled through downtown and the outdoor market area. We watched artisans diligently working on sweetgrass baskets, a Charleston specialty, although we only bought t-shirts and beef jerky. (We’re not really very good at shopping.)

 

We took a boat tour and saw Fort Sumter, the location for the start of the Civil War. We ate delicious seafood and we stayed in a hotel that was once a military college.

 

It was a fun and memorable vacation. For me, the highlight of our half-week stay was the horse-drawn carriage tour.

 

We boarded a carriage with another family and listened to the tour guide as she told us interesting facts about the city. She pointed out significant spots—churches, mansions, and gardens. She told us about the strict policies present-day homeowners must obey when renovating these historic homes.

 

On several of the oldest homes, she pointed out “Fire Mark Plaques” on the outside, mounted near the front doors. Our tour guide explained that these plaques indicated that these homes were protected by fire insurance.

 

As the story goes, if a house caught fire, the firefighters would arrive and check for one of these plaques. If there was none, they would leave, allowing the fire to destroy the home. (The tour guide explained that this is an urban legend and the firefighters were actually honor bound to put out the fire regardless of the presence of such a plaque.)

 

If the deliverance of one’s home from fire and destruction did rely on insurance such as this, it would sully the honorable name of those who came to rescue it. Instead, we know that firefighters risk it all for the safety of others.

 

Selfless Sacrifice. This is the recipe for superhuman heroism. And this is also the recipe for a God who was willing to sacrifice His Son for humankind. We don’t have to pay Him insurance fees or ransom money for what amounts to a hostage exchange: Me for Christ.

 

God sent His Son to earth to die thousands of years before there was a “me”. Now, I am grateful to spend the rest of my life in obligation to Him who gave it all. I guess, I am insured against fire, after all.