Sunday, February 17, 2013

The difference in a hurricane and a tornado

This past week has been a challenging one for my small town. We were hit by an F-4 tornado that devastated homes in 3 communities - Oak Grove, Hattiesburg, and Petal. Miraculously, no one was killed but all in its path experienced first hand the life shaking power of the tornado and its 175 mph winds. 

Driving through the areas hardest hit is surreal. Looking at the shells of homes - and sometimes the complete leveling of homes - makes you wonder how anyone survived. Neighbors are pitching in to try and "clean up" the mess and salvage some small part of the memories. 

This storm brings back memories of Hurricane Katrina and at the same time, it illuminates the stark contrast between a hurricane and a tornado. 

During the hurricane, everyone was affected. We knew it was coming, although no one knew it would be this bad. We had time to prepare. Many left for "higher ground" while others hunkered down to ride out the storm. It lasted for hours. The devastation seemed to be everywhere and we were dependent on each other to try and dig our way out. It seemed that no one was untouched. Life, for a moment, stood still.

The tornado was different. It came without warning...well, relatively without warning. I have heard story after story of those who barely had time to make it into an interior hallway before it hit. One friend described it as literally hearing the storm knock at her back door before lifting over their home. Others did not have the advantage of that "knock" - instead they huddled down as the tornado ripped through their home uninvited...watching as it was destroyed around them.

The tornado seemed to "choose" its path of destruction, unlike the hurricane which hit everyone. The tornado cut a path across the community taking out schools, homes, churches, and businesses. After it passed, some walked out of their homes to find them relatively untouched, while right next door the home was destroyed. Sometimes only a few feet marked the difference between life as normal and a reality that was not imagined just hours before.

All this got me thinking. These storms are so much like what happens in our lives. There are the hurricanes - economic situations, challenges we face as a nation, even the challenges we face as we age. We see them coming. We can somewhat prepare. We are all in it together. 

A tornado is different; it hits you unexpectedly. You are unprepared. It's like a smack in the face as you turn the corner that you didn't see coming. Others are untouched. This weapon seemed aimed at you on purpose and you wonder how you'll pick up the pieces. Those closest to you reach out to help, but others seem blissfully ignorant or unconcerned as you stand in the rubble of your life. They go on as if nothing if life is normal. But for you, it's anything but. This "tornado" in your life might be a job loss, that dreaded phone call in the middle of the night, a severe illness, or the unexpected death of someone you loved. Some more severe than others, but all leaving you standing in the rubble wondering where to start.

There is, however, one thing that both these storms have in common. In both, there is a rock that stands strong. The rock pictured is one that is on the campus of USM. It has withstood every storm that has come its way, and it reminded me of our rock - Jesus. The storms come - some expected, some not; but no matter how strong the storm, He remains solid. We can count on Jesus to be there for us. He never changes. He never leaves us. He cannot be moved by the storms of life. We can cling to Him.

I don't know what "storms" you are facing today. Perhaps it's a hurricane and you are wondering how much longer you will have to ride out the storm. Perhaps it's a tornado that you didn't see coming. Either way, you have a rock that you can cling to...His name is Jesus.

Psalm 18:2

New International Version (NIV)
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Matthew 7:24-25
New International Version (NIV)

The Wise and Foolish Builders

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

2 Samuel 22:47

New International Version (NIV)
47 “The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
    Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Giving up for Lent

Yesterday marked the beginning of Lent, the days leading up to one of the most precious of holidays if you are a Christian; and today is Valentine's Day. Somehow, the made-up holiday of Valentine's Day doesn't begin to compare to the love story we have in Good Friday, but that is another blog for another day. Today, I want to focus on a tradition of "giving up for Lent." 

Those who know me know I have a rather extreme personality and while I am GREAT at starting things, hanging in there for the long term is a whole lot tougher for me. That's why I have never really embraced the idea of giving up things for Lent....well, that and the fact that I've never been Catholic so it's not emphasized in my church.

Still, Lent has been on my mind lately. Then, today I saw a post from a friend who was talking about striving to draw closer to God and become more of who He had created her to be and it struck a note in me. That's what Lent is all about - drawing closer to the One who loved us with such a great love. I want to draw closer to the One who loves me and can love through me. 

I've had this thought and today it sort of formed more fully. This year, I won't concentrate on "giving up" for Lent, I'll concentrate on "giving". It's a subtle difference, but one is negative and the other is positive....I like positive.

This year, I want to use the 40 days leading up to Easter to learn to give more like our Father God gives. I am actively looking each day for ways to give - sometimes it's money, sometimes it's an encouraging word, sometimes it's a shoulder to cry on, sometimes it's just a helping hand - but the focus is to pour out myself as Jesus did to those around Him.

I am very excited that this weekend my church is giving us an opportunity to serve those so devastated by the tornado that hit our town on February 10th. We will have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who lost so much. This clean up won't happen quickly, so there will be many opportunities to give, both financially and physically to those around us.

Now, I have to be honest - as if I'm really every anything else in this blog - giving doesn't come easy to me. It hits an area where I can be afraid. When you go through almost every month wondering if the money will last as long as the bills, you tend to develop a habit of holding on. I don't often go shopping because that usually means spending. My husband and I rarely go out because that means spending. Lately, we've cut back on everything to try and stretch the paycheck just a little farther. We have learned to pinch our pennies so hard they scream! You get the picture....and now I am talking about a season of giving? 

Yeah, I know. It doesn't make sense to me either. I just know that stepping out in faith like this is causing me to have to trust God more, and isn't that what Lent is all about? Relying more on Him and less on me?

So...don't know if you're giving up chocolate for Lent - if so, I'll gladly take it off your hands. Giving up facebook? I will definitely miss you. Giving up alcohol or sugary sodas? Well - don't really drink either, so those you can keep. Me - I'll be working on giving up and giving "me". This could be a very interesting 40 days.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." ~Jim Elliot

Mark 10:29-31
29-31 Jesus said, “Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land—whatever—because of me and the Message will lose out. They’ll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first.”

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Throwing in the towel...

Okay. I give up. This week has "whupped" me and I'm done. The promise I made myself to workout out every day for at least 30 minutes for 100 days met its end yesterday when I just didn't have it in me to even take off my work shoes, much less put on my workout ones. I gave up. Kaput. Finished. Done.

It had been a rough week. Rougher than most. My sweet daughter turned 18 on Monday and instead of having a party, she had a wreck. A big one. When we got there, what I thought was going to be a little fender bender (I imagined having to drive my old truck with a new dent in it and was a bit aggravated,) I instead found a much different scene.

Thankfully, my daughter and her friend are fine. A night in the hospital for observation was just that - a night of observation. Other than a "boot" and a little soreness, she is fine. I am so very thankful for that. But honestly, I knew she would be. I have never had a problem trusting that she is in God's hand and that she'll be okay. (Okay - so I've had problems with it sometimes, but not this time.) I just knew she was okay.

My truck is another matter. It is totaled. 

You might wonder why, if my daughter is okay, that the truck would make me throw in the towel. Because the truck hit me in my area where my trust is weakest. I have trouble trusting for finances. There - I said it. 

You know, my pastor told us as we prepared for our mission trip to Cambodia that the enemy would hit us in our weakest area. I knew immediately what that would be for me, but since I knew God was leading me toward this trip, that somehow the money for it would come through. I really didn't expect this. 

When my paycheck went down after the first of the stomach started to tighten. When my son came home with the information for his next show-choir trip, it tightened a little more. I still managed to keep on smiling and trusting - okay...maybe my trust was starting to waver a bit. I looked at the upcoming expenses for the year....a little bit tighter still. Now this.

I made it through Monday night, and Tuesday, and the rest of the week. But when Friday came...I was done. I was tired. I was supposed to meet a friend for a run, but my son had to be one place and my daughter needed to be another and now we were down to two cars and it was like we were back to when they were 11 and 14 and depending on us to take them EVERYWHERE! When I finally stopped...there simply was no gas left in me. (And not much left in the car...did I mention gas prices went up?)

Day 45 of my workout did not happen. I didn't care. I just wanted to hide from the world for a while. Being tired will do that to you, you know. While I wanted to keep my promise to myself and at least get on the treadmill, I just didn't have it in me. 

Then today...the sun came up and it was another day. Another chance to trust and get it right.

I got up, put on my workout gear and headed to the gym. Did I "feel" like working out. No...not really. But today, I picked up the towel again. I needed to trust God and that meant getting back into my normal routine and NOT trying to disappear from the world.

Will I get it perfect? Nope....pretty sure I won't. Am I still scared? More than anyone knows. Do I have any idea what tomorrow holds? Not a clue. But I can trust God. He has already traveled this road ahead of me and has made a way...even if I can't see it right now.
I think we all feel the need to "throw in the towel" now and then. The key is after we do, we have to be sure we pick it back up.

Oh...and I'm still going to Cambodia. I'm just glad I'm not having to count on my busted up truck to get me there.

Isaiah 54:17 
No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord.

To Cambodia and Back - This will take you to my fund raising website where you can find out more.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A bit unrefined....

I admit it. I am not known for being "refined." 

I really have no idea what which fork to use at dinner...possibly because at my house we're doing good to find enough forks for each person to have one, much less two. 

I am clueless when it comes to etiquette, fashion, or any of the things that seem to go with fitting in.

I tend to laugh too loud, talk to fast, and speak my mind.

Fun for me might include funny old movies at home, a mud run, or a day of extreme exercise or fighting. 

Fashion includes hand-me-downs, garage sale finds, and clearance rack deals...oh, and my favorite tennis shoes if at all possible.

Unrefined....I doubt I'll ever be invited to meet with presidents or dine with royalty.

Seriously, I'm okay with that.

I'll never be the hard to pronoun herbs or exotic spices you hear about in fancy cooking. Nope, I'm sort of like salt...a little rough around the edges, and probably too ordinary to even notice.

What started all these random thoughts? Well, this morning I heard something on the radio that really caught my attention. They were talking about foods you shouldn't really eat and they said table salt was on the list. Simply put, it was too refined. All the nutrients have been processed out of it. They recommended sea salt instead.

Sea salt hasn't been so processed by the world that it has lost its nutrition. It not only adds flavor, it adds substance as well.

I guess being a little rough around the edges can be a good thing. 
Real, like Peter in the Bible. 
Unprocessed, like those Christians who dare to believe that what the Bible says is true.
Unpolished, not quite "fitting" in the world. 
That whole, "IN this world, but not OF this world" thing.

You know, I think I want to be more like sea salt - simply not refined. 

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Matthew 5: 13 (The Message)
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

Romans 12:2 (The Message)

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.