January 1, 2010. Columbia, Maryland
One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan [also came with them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”
The alarm clock goes off on his cell phone at the usual 5:30 am. As usual he is rattled out of a sound sleep. The heater kicks on in an effort to keep the inside temperature at a comfortable seventy-two degrees. The outside, by stark contrast, is twenty-two with the promise of warming to a balmy thirty-five degrees before the end of the second half of New Year’s football. “Thank you Lord for another day, Relieve me from the bondage of self that I may better serve you and my fellow man. In Jesus name and in all things I praise you. Amen.” And so his day begins.
The morning is gray. This is much more of a pain to him than the cold itself. He scrapes ice off the windshield while his car idles with the heater on full blast in an effort to speed up the process of warming his car to a degree that is livable by human standards. His cupboard was bare, at least as far as coffee goes, this morning leaving him irritable in his effort to get things moving toward the Starbucks. Finally the warmth of the cars defrost was taking shape on the windshield and the ice begins to give way beneath the plastic scraper, indicating that perhaps the interior of the car might be in the neighborhood of tolerable. He clears the last of the ice and climbs in to the driver’s seat of his ten year old Honda Accord.
He turns on the radio and is given reason to smile when the first song of the morning blasts from the Christian radio station WGTS, “He Reigns”, by the News Boys. It is one of his favorites and he says a little thanks to God for putting it on for him. He puts the car in gear, backs out of his parking space, puts it in drive and begins the journey to Starbucks and his Grande sized coffee of the day. He has to admit the morning is beautiful for as much as he might dislike the cold, the sun gleaming off the snow that has been untouched in few places was really a sight to behold. He is traveling now on Governor Warfield Parkway which takes him past Lake Kittamaqundi. On his right, and with all the leaves long since buried beneath the iced over snow, he has a clear view of the lake front and the snow on the banks leading to an icy shore and he swears the water is dancing in the morning sun. He smiles and says to himself, “Thank you Lord and Happy New Year!” Life is good.
The announcer on the Christian station warns of the upcoming morning news. He would normally turn the station to find another song in an effort to avoid the latest news on Iraq or who’s trying to get married to a same sex partner, or who has the right to kill their baby, and the usual uplifting message that could not even be sugar coated by Christian broadcasts and, in some cases, the Christians just added fuel to a fire that was already blazing. On this first day of the New Year he decided to let it play. Cannot crawl in a hole and pretend it isn’t here, he thought. So he listened.
“We have some alarming news in over the wire. A
Christian youth group participating in a New Year’s Eve Lock In at a church in Columbia was taken hostage last night. The name of the group and location of the church are being with held for the moment. It appears that a group of youth was at the church celebrating the New Year by staying there all night. The “Lock In” is just another way of saying sleep over. Not a very good piece of news to bring in our new year to say the least. We will keep you updated as these events unfold, until then; we ask your prayers for this situation to be put in the hands of the Lord.”
“Oh no, oh my God,” he says out loud. “It can’t be my group.” He had left his group of teens in the hands of youth leader volunteers just after midnight and the ringing in of 2010. It was a youth minister’s dream after four years of what began as a novice effort to build something from nothing; he was blessed to have a solid ministry going. All was well when he had left. It was a group of twenty middle school kids, twelve young ladies and eight young men and two adult volunteers. He had been pleased with the turnout, 14 of the kids were regular group members who had brought along 6 guests. He selfishly thought it would look good when he turns in the numbers on Monday. The elders will be impressed. It always amazed him that kids that age would be willing to spend time in a church on any given Sunday, much less on New Year’s Eve. Certainly wasn’t what he was doing at that age. “Father God, I pray your care and comfort for those held captive and that you touch the heart of the one or those holding them. Touch their hearts Jesus as you touched mine. In all things your will be done. Amen.” He turned the car away from the direction of Starbucks and sped off toward the church.