fireman responds to alarmThe fire alarm woke me just before midnight.

I was staying on the second floor of a hotel in Georgia. There’d been a false alarm during the day a few days earlier, but it shut off after a minute or two.

I peeked out in the hallway and saw people leaving their rooms with their coats on, which is the appropriate reaction, of course. But I was close to a balcony that looked out over the lobby. Several people were milling around downstairs and I could hear the desk attendant on the phone saying it was a false alarm.

But the awful shrieking, piercing noise didn’t stop. I couldn’t go back to sleep until it did.  So, with my former news-reporter’s curiosity kicking in, I got dressed and went downstairs, where I hung out and talked to other guests and watched the firemen traipse through the lobby and up and down the stairs. After about 20 minutes, they finally shut off the noise, declared it was a faulty alarm, and we all went back to our rooms.

It had been an alarming week. We’d had a malfunction of our home security system that caused an alarm at the beginning of the week. So I got to thinking about alarms and how sometimes we don’t know how to respond. What alarms have you faced?

There’s the alarm when you hear your teenage son talking with a friend about trying pot.

Or the alarm of your freshman daughter announcing she’s pregnant.

The warning that sounds when a co-worker of the opposite sex flirts with you, and you enjoy it.

When you have a vicious argument with your spouse and you wonder if the wounds can be healed.

Or the alert when you’d rather be writing (or anything else) than listening to a sermon, and the sermon is about Jesus telling Martha that Mary had chosen the better thing–listening to Him. Oops.

Each of these situations has only one response that matters. When Jesus visited Mary and Martha, He said, “Martha, Martha, [insert your name here] you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 41-42, ESV).

Mary chose to listen to Jesus. What will you do when the alarms sound in your life, or when there are no alarms, just the everydayness of stuff to do? Will you ignore Him or will you take time to listen?

(For more on the story of Mary and Martha, here’s the sermon at McGregor Baptist Church I mentioned above.)