After we boarded the train, we headed into the dining car for breakfast as we watched the mountainous landscape glide by the windows. After she leisurely ate her pancakes, we made our way back to our seats as Sadie intermittenly gazed contentedly at the passing trees and rivers outside her window, between working on a puzzle, coloring in her book, snuggling close to me as I read to her, and resting on my lap. Sadie was my second grandchild in line for the special train trip with me. Ethan–the family train buff that rivals his Grampa– had already had his turn, and is eagerly waiting the next round, after the older cousins Jakob and Raeme get their turns.
There’s no doubt about it– our family loves trains. When our boys were little, they spent hours with Dan building an elaborate HO train set on a huge table, complete with tunnels, lakes, houses and scenery. Now, Dan has a beautiful “Great Northern” system set up in his home ‘train-themed’ office, where the HO cars run along a track that he installed on shelves that hug all four walls of his office. He even built “tunnels” through the walls between his office and mine, so that his train can continue into my office, circle it and return through another wall-tunnel, designed to look just like the tunnels and railroad snowshed at the top of Stevens Pass a half-hour from our home.
Undoubtedly our love of trains was my husband’s influence, and consequently we have some great memories of special train rides when our kids were young– riding the Agawa Canyon train north of Lake Superior; hopping on to one that laced its way through the scenic landscape around Mount Rushmore; another one in Maine; Dan’s and my cross-country train trip from Toronto to Vancouver; twice when I rode the rails between Seattle and Redding, California to visit my daughter and her family when they lived there; and our train trip last summer to Glacier Park, Montana for a few days– not to mention our grandson’s infatuation with “Polar Express,” the “Chuggington” train cartoons, the train that runs around the base of their Christmas tree, and the conductor’s hat and “Great Northern” tee-shirt he’s often found sporting.
We’ve been a lot of places by train, and after all this time, I’ve finally figured something out. As long as the train stays on the tracks, we have a tremendous amount of freedom! We can travel just about anywhere, and do so many things! However, if the train should ever leave the track, it would be a horrible disaster, like the one I was so impacted by, reading about it in the historic account “The White Cascade” by Gary Krist. In it, he recounted the story of a train being pushed off the track by a monstrous avalanche on Stevens Pass– just a half hour from our home– a hundred years ago. The devastation was unbelievable.
But what’s really gotten my attention recently is this: the Law of God is very much like that track that keeps us safe and provides us with amazing freedom when we respect it. I’m gaining a greater and greater appreciation for God’s Law the older I get and the more I witness both the results of obedience to His instruction as well as the disasterous carnage that results from veering off His tracks.
God gave the “track” for us to ride on, just ten comprehensive rules [elucidated by the “case laws” throughout the rest of the Bible] that are not unreasonable– and yet they hold such amazing freedom and protection when we respect them!
1.You shall have no other gods before me;
2.You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything… [and] bow down to serve them;
3.You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain;
4.Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy;
5.Honor your father and your mother;
6.You shall not murder;
7.You shall not commit adultery;
8.You shall not steal;
9.You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor;
10.You shall not covet.
Only ten comprehensive commands give us all we need to stay on track with our relationships with both God and man. Which of these commandments, do you think, would give us more freedom if we were to disregard it? “You shall not murder?” “You shall not steal?” “You shall not commit adultery?”…
None of them would.
Just like the scientific laws that God put into place at Creation, God’s moral Laws are also fixed. They cannot be broken. They can be disregarded, dishonored, abhored, ignored, scoffed at… but they cannot be broken. They remain fixed for our protection. Many years ago, we grieved so deeply when the brother of a good friend took the elevator up to the tenth floor of a hotel and jumped to his death. He may have scorned the law of gravity, but that law could not be broken– and the result was devastating.
These days we are likewise seeing the affects of a nation and a people who are defying God’s moral laws, and the carnage–likewise– is devastating. Murder of the unborn is somehow justified; adultery is rampant even among Christians, leaving children confused over who their ‘family’ really is after all; the family as God instituted it [“honor your father and your mother”] is being redefined with scorn for God’s Law; covetousness is rampant; God’s name is scoffed and ridiculed… Clearly, we are witnessing the devastation of having fallen off the tracks.
Ironically, the more men scoff at God’s Law and declare it irrelevant, the more man tries to compensate for the ensuing chaos by writing his own laws with which to control the problems that result. There’s absolutely no question about it: I would far rather abide by God’s Ten Commands than to be subjected to the literally thousands upon thousands of laws that man keeps on adding to. There are currently so many human “laws” in force that every single one of us is constantly guilty of violation of something or other! It’s ridiculous!
The multitude of man’s laws are oppressive. God’s Law is freeing. It protects, guides, leads, and brings us into amazing freedom. I’m with David… “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life!” (Ps. 119:92, 93)
Give us the grace and determination, Oh God, to get back on track!
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