Monday, December 3, 2012

Cold Shower

An old friend of mine tells the best rescue story I’ve ever heard.  I wish you all could hear him tell it but let me give it a try. 
Kurt and his wife Ginger had been vacationing in the Upper Peninsula’s Keweenaw lakeshore.  Kurt had just packed up his boat and gear as they prepared for the 10 hour journey home.  As he loaded his van, something caught his eye out in Lake Superior.  It was a canoe.  He had noticed that particular canoe earlier tooling around close to shore.  It was a dad with his two young sons.  What grabbed Kurt’s attention was how far out the canoe was now and how choppy the lake had become since the last time he saw it. Kurt reached in his bag for some binoculars.  Something in him told him that that they could be in trouble. He wanted to be sure they were alright.  Lake Superior conditions are known to change quickly for the worse and this man’s boat was not equipped to handle the increased chop.  Looking through his glass, Kurt’s fears for this family were realized.  They had drifted too far from shore and the canoe could no longer navigate the waves.  The boys were hunkered down in the bottom of the canoe as dad, looking very tired, fought with all he had to fight the current back to shore.
While Kurt unpacked his boat from the top of his van, Ginger began to make 911 calls. Kurt also had a canoe but his was equipped with a small engine.  He hoped it had enough power to carry the waves.  Ginger got word from emergency personnel that the closest rescue boat was over an hour away.  They would continue to look for help in the area but it was appearing that this family had to survive for at least another hour.  Kurt was convinced he had to help and as he put his boat in the water a couple walking the shoreline stopped to see what he was up to.  Kurt explained the situation and a man Kurt had never met, climbed into Kurt’s front seat of the canoe.  
As they navigated the chop to go find the father and his sons, Kurt noticed his boat was taking on water.  He knew that this rescue would need to be quick and efficient for anyone to survive.  He began to feel his life and the life of the stranger in the front of his boat were now at risk. They found the family fairly quickly but as they came along side the other canoe, they noticed it filled with water and the dad was now outside the canoe.  Kurt and his friend began to move the boys from the swamped canoe to his and then the dad from the side.  But with every movement they made, waves crashed into Kurt’s boat taking on more water. It too was becoming swamped and before long, all five people were submerged in the water.  Cold water.  40 degree, cold water.  Kurt knew that hypothermia was just minutes away for each of them, so he pulled everyone together and asked them to link their arms through another person’s life-vest straps.  Perhaps this would help conserve body heat but Kurt was thinking that this would also help those doing body recoveries.  Based on when the rescue boats were expected to arrive in the area, he was convinced they weren’t going to make it. 
But as any hope began to drift, something amazing happened.  Out of nowhere, a police boat appeared.  This particular boat was not supposed to be available that day but when they heard the calls on the radio they put their boat in the water and started a search.  Not knowing exactly where to look, they set out in a general direction to see if they could help.  That general direction led them in a straight line to the two swamped canoes.  Within moments, all five were out of the water and treatment for hypothermia began.  Everyone would survive.  Everyone was rescued.
One of the most compelling parts of this story was something Kurt said he does to remember that day.  He told me that on a frequent basis he’ll stand in the shower and turn off all the hot water.  He’ll stand for minutes in the coldest shower he can endure.  When I asked him why he does that, he said “I never want to forget how cold Lake Superior water was.  I never want to forget what I was rescued from.” 
Thousands of years ago, God put dates on the Jewish calendar for celebration.  One of those dates was for the Passover Feast.  In essence, this date was similar to our 4th of July.  This was a celebration of the freedom they were given from their slavery in Egypt.  They had been delivered; they had been rescued!  Each year, they were to remember what they were delivered from by acting out the events that God orchestrated for them to be set free.

Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household…. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.

That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast…This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

At Passover each year, they were to take their best lamb and kill it.  They were then to paint their door posts with the blood.  The lamb could be eaten but they needed to eat with travel clothes on.  Interesting dinner, isn’t it?  In a way, God is asking them to stand in a cold shower.  He wants them to feel the fear and pain of the past.  He wants them to feel the life and death urgency of their ancestors burden of slavery.  He wants them to never forget what they were rescued from. 
We too have been slaves; slaves to our sin.  God has again provided a dramatic rescue.  Some of us have been rescued out of the ugly mire of our sin.  We’re in a swamped boat, cold and clinging to life. We’ve been plucked out of the middle of our broken mess.  Others of us have been rescued from a sinful mess.  It’s like we’re tooling along the lakeshore as the wind blows and waves pound.  God rescues us before we can drift deep into danger.   Either way, we are all rescued!
So how do you mark your salvation?  What causes you to remember the pain of your past slavery?  How do you celebrate the joy of the freedom that was gifted to you through God’s dramatic rescue of you?  Think about what your cold shower could be this week.  



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