I wanted to write a post about Reformation Day, however I’ve not had time today, so this picture is going to have to suffice. Thanks to my friend Brad Russell for posting this on his Facebook Page, too funny–
Archives for October 2012
All day long, my soul has ached for the people of the northeast. The pictures that are coming out of the area damaged by hurricane Sandy are astounding. Millions without power. Homes and businesses destroyed by flood waters and even fires. Lives lost. It’s hard to even wrap our minds around such devastation.
I’ve also thought a lot today about our Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Teams. They are often the very first people into an afflicted area to bring essentials such as food, water, and medical supplies. These highly trained volunteers stand by, ready to mobilize whenever they are needed. I am not able to go physically and help. But I am able to give financially through my church to help support those who can go.
But all of this has also got me thinking about how we respond in any crises, whether it be a natural disaster, a tragic illness, a manmade disaster, loss of a loved one, or another devastating event in the life of a person.
I’ve not experienced a natural disaster first-hand like the losses suffered in Sandy. However I have experienced the devastating experience of having my husband, who was a minister at the time, be arrested and jailed for unspeakable acts, and the resulting divorce and flood of destruction that event caused in my life and the life of my family. And, on the other side of that event, I can honestly say that it was the Christ-like reaction of the people who surrounded me along with the amazing grace of God, that rescued me from certain and crippling defeat in this life. They provided me with Food, Clothing and Shelter, the basics we need to survive. Here’s how they did it:
Food: My memory of much of those days and weeks immediately following the disaster in my life is somewhat hazy, but I do remember food. Of course, this is one of the first things we think of in a crises, is to provide food. Casseroles, cakes, sandwiches, etc. And I do remember physical food being provided. But even greater than that, was the food that was fed to my weakened soul. My belief in God was shaken in those dark days. And yet my friends patiently fed me truth about God, through scripture and prayer. I remember thinking over and over again, “Tell me about God. Tell me about God.” because my soul was searching for some sort of foundation that wasn’t going to shift. And my friends did. A group of dear, sweet older ladies at my church who pray together every single week, surrounded me and prayed fervently for me and for my children, and yes, for my husband, with such passion that it causes me to almost weep now remembering it. And day after day, I was gently pushed by a friend to pursue God through scripture work. At first I couldn’t even open my computer (where my scripture work takes place through my Bible Software), but slowly through tremendous encouragement I got there. I got there. And had I not gotten there, I don’t know where I would be today.
Provide your devastated friend with food. Physical food, but also spiritual food, when they are ready. Ask God to show you what to say and do to feed them this vital, life-giving food. Matthew 4:4 says:
This is truth. I know it to be truth in my life. Life comes from the word of God.
Clothing: Another essential we think of in a disaster, particularly a natural disaster, is clothing. People are always very quick and gracious to donate gently used clothing to those who have lost everything in a disaster such as a tornado or a fire. But the clothing I am speaking of here is very different. This is the clothing that the responders wear in dealing with anyone who has experienced a tremendous crises. It’s found in Colossians 3:12:
Other translations say “Clothe yourselves…….in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” And that is exactly what those around me and my children did. They clothed themselves in compassion. In Kindness. In gentleness and patience. The acts of kindness are too, too numerous to recount here. But I can honestly say that I was surrounded by people who took this verse to heart. It’s funny, but never in my life had I felt more loved and cared for, than in the very darkest days of my life. And isn’t that what church is about? We are family. We are called to be compassionate with each other. To be kind, gentle and patient with each other, instead of tearing one another down, refusing to forgive each other. (Col 3:13). I am so blessed to have friends and a church–and an entire community, who spoke Jesus’ love to me through their active living out of Colossians 3:12.
Shelter: Many of those in the wake of Sandy have lost their shelter, such a basic need. They will need the help of the Red Cross, FEMA, and other disaster relief agencies to help them from shelter. I, too, needed shelter during my crises. My children and I first needed immediate physical shelter. I had friends at the time who graciously took us into their home, allowing us to hide and grieve and to determine what our next move was going to be. This was a tremendous, tremendous gift to us, one that I’ll never be able to repay, though I wish I could desperately. There are all sorts of ways to provide shelter. Maybe God will call you to take someone into your home. Or maybe you can provide a safe place for a person to be honest and grieve and figure out what they are going to do, just by being a listening friend. Maybe there are ways you can protect a hurting person from the storm that is raging against them, whether that protection is physical protection or mental/spiritual protection. In Matthew 25:35, Jesus says:
Other translations say “I was a stranger and you invited me in”. Provide shelter for those who are experiencing a crises. Provide the shelter of the protection of a physical place, or the protection of prayer, or the protection of a safe place to start to gather the pieces again.
Food, Clothing, Shelter. The basic needs of life. I am so blessed to have had friends that provided me with these things. I am so blessed to be a member of a church that provided me these things, and continues to love and provide them to me and my family and to others in need. I’ll never, ever be able to repay anyone for what they have done for my children and I.
But maybe that is what grace and mercy is about.
I’m sitting here listening to the wind of Hurricane Sandy. For the most part, the storm is over for our neighborhood. The rain will eventually be calming down, the wind will be calming down–everything will settle.
So what happens after the storm? Where can we look for guidance as to what happens after your soul has been battered by storms?
I love the story of Jesus Calming the Storm. But I never thought before to look at what happened after the storm. I think there are lessons to be learned in what the disciples experienced after the storm was calmed.
Here is the text:
37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” 5:1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.
This passage in Mark 4 tells the story of Jesus, asleep in the boat, when a great storm arose. He was awakened by His disciples who could not understand how Jesus could be asleep. Jesus wakes up, rebukes the wind and tells the sea to “Be Still”. The wind stops. And then we see it:
- “And there was a great calm” (verse 39) After this storm, after Jesus calmed the storm, there was a great calm. A great settling of the wind and the sea. And so it is with the storms of our souls. It may be a very uneasy calm, because we are human. Because we worry about the effects of the storm. And we worry about the next storm to come, so sometimes we don’t recognize God’s calming of the storm. And sometimes, that calm seems as if it is never going to come. I know that so well. But scripture is truth. We read time and again in the Psalms how God is our refuge. How he grants peace and sleep. If you are in the midst of a soul storm, please my friend, hang on. A day will come when there will be a settling. That doesn’t mean it makes the storms or their effects any easier. Storms create great damage, as we are seeing on the East Coast. Storms of the soul do too. But hang on, God will grant calm. And our time here on earth is short. We will be home soon, where we will finally know true settling of our souls.
- After the Storm Comes Teaching: 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” We see that after the storm, Jesus uses the moment to teach His disciples. Or maybe it could be considered discipline, for He asks “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” He wants them to examine themselves, now that the storm is over. He wants them to examine their soul and take a look at their faith. Do they have the faith in Jesus that He can calm the storm, when it is time to? This is a hard question to ask yourself, or at least, it is for me. Because I don’t like the answer I find inside of me. My faith is so small. My fear is so large. And yet those are the very two questions He asks about. It is in asking ourselves these questions that we are compelled to cry out “Help Our Unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
- After the Storm Comes Acknowledgement: We see in verse 41 the disciples “filled with great fear” and saying to eachother “Who is this, that the wind and the sea obey Him?” I think this question is a question of acknowledgement. The disciples are filled with great fear, because they realize they are dealing with someone extraordinary. While we are in the midst of the storm, it can be so very hard to see where God is. Good grief, I know this to be truth. God seems so absent. His ways seem so unfathomable in the midst of our soul storms. But in the calm, there comes acknowledgement that God is God. That He sees and knows, even when we think He does not. And this should fill us with great fear—fear in terms of tremendous respect for who our God is. Sometimes this acknowledgement only comes after hours and hours of wrestling with scripture, hours of prayer, and hours of worshipping even when our soul does not want to study, pray or worship.
- Coming to the Other Side: As we see in verse 5:1, after the storm the disciples and Jesus “came to the other side of the sea”. Do you see the hope in that simple sentence? They made it to the other side of the storm. They came through the storm. I’m sure they were still shaking, still battered, still bewildered. But the point is, they came to the other side of the sea. With Jesus. We have to believe that we will come to the other side of the sea. And if not in this life, then when we “Cross over the Jordan River” (often used to refer to passing from this life to our eternal life with God), we will ultimately come to the other side. We will be Home.
Our Hamster is missing.
Somehow the cute little thing (read that with sarcasm) managed to climb out a hole at the top of the cage (that had been covered with duct tape) and must have made a 4 foot leap of death onto the floor and scurry away. We’ve looked everywhere. The poor hamster has but three choices: continue to elude us, manage to get out of the house into our water-filled yard and the coming hurricane, or possibly be eaten by a snake (we recently caught a LONG black snake in our house) if there are any around.
But as I sit here listening to the gathering storm outside (Hello #Sandy!), I’m thinking that we are so much like this hamster. I know, where is this going? Try to follow me here. Our hamster had everything he needed…..food, shelter, water, safety. And yet he has run into what will be certain disaster for him.
Isn’t that what we sometimes do with God? I know I do, frequently. Instead of running to Him for the very things we need, we run far and fast away, into what will be certain disaster.
I don’t know why storms come. And I’m not talking only about Sandy, I’m speaking of the storms of our lives. The very dark days. The catastrophic news. The heartache. The days when it would be easier to just give up. I don’t know why God allows them, but He does. It rains on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45) And when these storms come, we are rightfully shaken. Oh, how my soul has been shaken! And sometimes the storms seem to never end. They continue to batter our souls time and time again. Over and over. But what are we to do in those dark moments? Where are we to go?
There is nowhere to go except to Jesus (John 6:68). We are to run to Him just like this Psalm says in 57:1:
We are to cry to Him for mercy. But this is so hard to do. I know!! My stubborn, rebellious soul knows that full well! But just like our hamster denying his shelter, sustenance, and safety, when we run away from God and do not cry to Him for mercy, we will be left wandering about while the storms of destruction wrack our souls.
But, my friends, there is a better way. There is a way to peace and safety. And I’m preaching this as much to myself as I am to my few readers. We don’t have to run away. We don’t have to run away. Instead, our souls are called, urged, welcomed, to take refuge in God, in the shadow of His wings, till the storms of destruction pass by.
***UPDATE: We FOUND OUR HAMSTER!! The silly thing ran right out into the living room while we were watching a movie. We cornered the bugger and caught him–or her—and it is safely back in it’s cage, with food and water and the hole patched up with a better solution than just duct tape. So, our hamster is once again safe and sound from certain destruction. Thanks for reading!