Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Isaiah 26:3

"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in You."

You've no doubt seen the news. You probably know that some 240 tornados over numerous states took the lives, homes, and peace of countless Americans from Oklahoma to Virginia. In North Carolina, the radar picture looked like a giant claw mark of parallel storm paths that covered almost half the state.

I'd heard a bad storm system was headed our way, but we frequently have such warnings, and the systems usually break up coming over the mountains resulting in only scattered storms. Not this time.

After a breakfast meeting with a writing buddy, I met my oldest daughter at the mall to do some shopping for her fast-approaching study abroad trip.

We had made little progress when my husband called and said a tornado had touched down south of Raleigh and was headed in our general direction. He suggested we come home, but since my other daughter was headed to the mall to work, we decided it would be better to have one of us with her, just in case the storm hit the mall.

Thirty minutes later, he called to check in, saying it was getting pretty bad at the house - as it was at the mall five minutes away. As we were talking the call dropped and the power went out at both the house and the mall. My oldest daughter and I ducked into one of the protected hallways of the mall and she said, "I think we should pray." We began praying that God would divert the path of the storm to protect us and Randy and my sons and that He would even cause the storm to dissipate so that no one would be hurt. As I was praying, I felt a hand on my arm as a stranger joined us in prayer.

Within a few minutes, the backup generator kicked in and the lights in the mall began to come on. Randy called back and said, "The house across the street is gone." I believe he had to repeat that for me a couple of times before I grasped what he was saying. Finally I understood that he and the boys were fine, but that the home that stood 50-100 feet in front of our was completely demolished.

This is the view from our front door. The couple who lived in this home had moved out just weeks ago. You can see the foundation of the home and some of the debris that is left of the home - yet their mailbox and shrubs survived unharmed.

This home took the brunt of the debris from the home next door to it. The family who lives there was inside but no one was harmed.

This is our backyard where about half a dozen very large pine trees fell - away from the house. 

As the reality of how nearly I came to losing half my family dawned and I recalled the words we had prayed, I was completely overwhelmed with gratitude to the Lord for answering our prayers! I'm quite sure (and not terribly concerned) that I made a total spectacle of myself in my earnest and joy-filled praise. Several strangers asked if I was all right and I had to tell them that my Lord had just answered my prayers and protected my husband and sons.

Our next door neighbor also had significant damage, including our tree and his tree landing on his cars! They are an elderly couple who hid in their bathroom to escape injury. The husband told me one of their windows blew open and some things inside the home were blown around but nothing was broken.

And here is our home following the storm....

We do have a few repairs...some shingles, a few pieces of siding, and some gutters. A few items, like our grill, disappeared and probably ended up in another county.

I wish I could explain why God spared our home and our lives, when others were lost. My heart breaks for the families who lost loved ones, especially children. I know that God is sovereign and that He has a plan for each of our lives. I pray that God will give us many opportunities to share His love with those around us who are suffering. And I am so very thankful for His hand of protection covering us.
Thank you for your prayers for those who are still recovering.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Are You Living in the Belly of the Whale?

How do you know if you’re living in the belly of the whale? What if, sometime ago, you ran from God, turned away from something He had called you to and ended up in a big, stinky fish? What if, over time, you grew used to your surroundings and, while not pleasant, became comfortable, complacent, and content to simply remain there? You know, hung some curtains from the ribcage, tossed a throw rug over the pyloric sphincter and decided this wasn’t so bad after all.

What if, right now, you are living in a place that is putrid, rank and disgusting in the eyes of God, but you’ve grown oblivious to your surroundings? How do you open your spiritual eyes to see the disobedience that has become your snug abode? How do you escape the prison of your own sinfulness when you’ve ignored it for so long you hardly recognize it as sin anymore?

The story of Jonah is one we learn in Sunday School at an early age, but as adults we often overlook its application to our lives. In Jonah 1:12, Jonah tells his companions in the midst of the storm, 12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” The lesson for us is to recognize our fault and be willing to accept the consequences – however terrible they might be. Do we do that? Do we say, “I know that it is my fault…?” Do we bear the consequences or do we look for any way out of them we can find? Any quick-fix, short-cut, have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too means of escape?

The second lesson we learn is how to react once we recognize where we are. Jonah cried out to God, knowing that God was sovereignly responsible for his current circumstances, and God was solely capable of changing those circumstances. Jonah cried out,

7 “When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, LORD,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.
8 “Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’”

He turned back to God, and praised God with confident assurance that God would deliver him from these circumstances. He prophetically knew that God would provide him the opportunity to not only obey but to testify of God’s greatness through and in the midst of his obedience.

Lord, help me to take a look around and recognize any fishy odor! Help me to never grow complacent in my sin, but to repent and return whole-heartedly to you. Help me to testify to your greatness through radical obedience that causes others to ask for a reason for the hope that lies within me. Forgive me for all the times I've run the other way instead of obeying Your leading.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I am a Friend of God or Nearer My Lord to Thee?

Do you remember as a young child trying to get as close as you could to your daddy? Scooching up next to him on the sofa, with his arms around you, and just snuggling on a cold, winter day?

Have you ever thought about doing the same thing with God? What would it be like to live in a mindset of 'how close can I get to Him' instead of content to be at arms length?

I just completed Beth Moore's study of the Tabernacle, A Woman's Heart, God's Dwelling Place, and I am almost speechless. Those who know me will testify how rare that is!

I don't want to give anything away that might discourage you from going through this study, which I think may be the best study I've ever done, but I will say that I am left with this image and with this desire on my heart - to make each day about getting closer to God than the day before.

Too often, we who call ourselves 'little Christs' (the literal translation of Christian), content ourselves with a relationship that is at arm's length. Like a friend whom you invite over for a meal - but don't let them go upstairs! Heaven forbid they see that our beds aren't made and our shower looks like a biology experiment!

We'll chat with him about our friends and their needs, even about some of our own concerns, but our relationship hasn't gone any deeper in years. We're still praying for the same issues in our life that we prayed about five years ago. We're still confessing the same sins and wondering why we can't seem to overcome.

We've been content with our salvation. Content to know that we are saved. Content to know that we're forgiven. Content to know that we will be in heaven when we pass from this earth.

But why are we satisfied with that when God offers so much more?

Have you ever seen a child who was content to be held by their father at arm's length? Can you imagine a bride content to have her groom shake her hand at the end of the wedding ceremony? Or ten, twenty or fifty years later?

Yet we allow ourselves to be content with the same relationship we've had with God since the day we were saved. We're content to tell folks about the change He wrought in us many years ago, instead of the change He wrought TODAY.

We may have eternity to spend with God, but why wait for eternity to begin growing in your relationship with Him? Each new day is a new opportunity for us to learn more about Him, to allow Him to bless our lives more with His presence, and for us to draw nearer, my Lord, to Thee.