July 1, 2010

O God, restore us, And cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved. Psalm 80:3

I don’t know about the newspaper in your area, but ours has a box on the front page that counts how many days it’s been since the oil started gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

As of now the oil is concentrated in the northern Gulf, affecting the Florida panhandle as well as beaches in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. But there’s concern that it will work its way south, and residents of the Florida Keys are worried that the slick will impact one of the area’s most precious marine resources, the coral reefs.

Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles past Key West, is a place to find lots of beautiful coral on display. When Joe and I visited there last year, we swam in the gorgeous blue-green Atlantic, and observed the many colorful varieties of coral in the warm shallows. What a feast for the eyes! We were careful not to touch it, because human bacteria can be fatal to the delicate coral. I’m unhappy to think it could be threatened by the oil spill (keep up to date on the effects at Dry Tortugas and other national parks here).

But of course there’s more to Dry Tortugas than coral. Fort Jefferson is a crumbling, six-sided fort designed to protect the Gulf’s shipping lanes (you can read more about its history and its most famous inhabitant in a previous post, and in an article I wrote which will be in the November issue of Mature Living). Construction began in 1846, but the building became obsolete before it was finished, and Fort Jefferson was never completed.

Time, hurricanes and salt air all have taken their toll on the crumbling garrison, which is why restoration has been going on there for the past 30 years (find information about it here). The economic stimulus bill Congress passed in 2009 set aside $7 million for the project, but according to CNN, experts say at least another $13 million is needed. Asked why all that money is being spent on a place that draws only about 52,000 visitors annually, Kelly Clark, the Park Service employee overseeing the project, says, “If we lose Fort Jefferson, that’s it…There are no other Fort Jeffersons.”

Many of the comments at the end of the CNN article disagree with that assessment. “There has been a huge waste of taxpayer dollars on this site since it was originally built, and it is sad to see it continuing now, when people should know better,” writes a poster. Another complains, “How many years will it take to make that $20 million back? Hopefully before another 150 years or that major hurricane. Welcome to the United States of Wasteful Spending!”

Life can beat us up pretty badly—storms rage within and without, and like Fort Jefferson, time takes its toll on our “fortress,” our body. Sometimes we feel worn out and even obsolete.

But God just keeps pouring Himself into us anyway, lavishing us with His love and spending His endless resources to make us what we were meant to be, His children (1 John 3:1, John 1:12). He sent His Son Jesus to seal the deal when we didn’t deserve it (Romans 5:8).

The three parables in Luke 15 mention a trio of lost things—a sheep, a coin, and a son—and describe how the missing object or person is gone after, or searched and waited for.

The takeaway message is that God’s actively looking for each of us. He’s not willing to let us go to hell, literally or figuratively, in this life or the next (2 Peter 3:9).

There’s only one you, only one me. If you haven’t signed on yet for the “restoration project” God calls salvation, don’t wait.

Delay or indifference could be fatal.

And God doesn’t want to lose you.

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