Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Safe Place

"Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;he is my God, and I trust him." Psalm 91:1,2 NLT

There is a thunderstorm going on outside, right now, as I write this. According to the weatherman, this is just the "appetizer." There is supposed to be more like this, and worse, in 3 or 4 hours from now. 

Have I mentioned before that I don't like Spring?  This is one of the reasons. I love rain, and I even like thunderstorms, within reason, but I draw the line at tornadoes.  I'm not a fan, and there is a reason.  

In 1996, my two younger children, along with my husband and I, weathered the F-3 tornado that did major damage to hundreds of homes in our area. My oldest was away at college at the time, an hour away, and had to hear about it on the news. We lived in a mobile home back then.  It was a good one, anchored to the ground with a brick foundation, but it was still a mobile home.

We didn't have a whole lot of warning, being out in the country with no sirens at that time. When the power went off, we turned on the battery-powered radio to listen to what the local weather station was saying. About that time, a friend who lived about 20 minutes southwest of us called to say there was a tornado on the ground, headed our way.  

We had nowhere to go. We grabbed quilts, turned the couch over, and got under it. And we prayed. We prayed a lot that night. We could tell when the funnel was over us, because of the pressure drop. My ears popped and it was hard to breathe. It was a terrifying experience, one I'll never forget. But God brought us through it. My daughter, who was 17 at the time, said later that as she was praying she saw God's hand over our house, holding it down. 

The next morning when it was light, we went outside to survey the damage. The neighbor next door and the one across the road both had substantial damage to their houses, their non-mobile homes--one had a whole room gone, the other had about half of their house left. Our huge oak tree was lying in the yard, and had missed landing on our house by just a few feet. Our storage building was gone. The tree by the road was gone. The yard was full of shingles of all colors, along with lots of paper and other debris from the areas southwest of us. 

Our house--our mobile home--beat the odds and was still standing.  It had no damage other than a few shingles gone from along the edge of the roof. The four of us were completely unharmed.

Coincidence? Luck? I hardly think so. It was GOD! Our God watched over us, just as He said he would if we would run to Him:

"He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection." Psalm 91:4

Ever since that night I have not liked storm season. I am not fearful, because I know what the Lord did for me before. I know He will protect me again. I just have a healthy respect for tornadoes. I don't laugh in the face of danger, tempting God to take care of me. He gave me common sense, and I use it. I go to my safe place; either my closet in the center of the house, or the tornado shelter at the school, depending on how bad it is and how much time I have.

And I PRAY. I have been known to speak to the storm, as Jesus did when the storm came up when He was asleep in the boat with His disciples. I have seen storms break up before they get to our area, or turn and go north or south of us. 

Take heart. Yes, there will probably be some storms this afternoon, and many other times.  Run to your safe place, but do not fear. "The shadow of the Almighty" is the safest place of all.  That's where you'll find me.

"From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed.
Lead me to the towering rock of safety for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.
Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings!" Psalm 61:2-4 NLT 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Our Hope

"Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all.. You are the hope of everyone on earth.." Psalm 65:3, 5. 

Tomorrow is Good Friday, the day on which Jesus died on the cross for our sins. I can never repay the debt I owe to Him for taking on my sins and dying a brutal death by crucifixion.  But the story doesn't end with His death. On the third day, He arose from the dead:  

"After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it...

"The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.Then go quickly and tell his disciples: "He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him."’ Now I have told you." 

"So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. 'Greetings,' he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.'” 

"Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" (from Matthew 28, NIV)

HE IS RISEN!  My Lord conquered death, hell, and the grave and is now at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2, NIV)

This is what the scripture in Psalms reminded me of when I read it in my devotions this morning. In my sinful state, I was overwhelmed in my sins. Jesus forgave me, though. So because I have accepted Him as my Savior, I have hope. You can have hope, too, by trusting in Jesus and accepting His sacrifice for your sins. 

I pray that the real meaning of Easter comes alive for you this weekend.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Home Stretch

I won't be a college undergrad for much longer.

Tonight, I came home from work, went to the college website, and registered for my classes for fall. My CLASSES for FALL!  I am now registered in the last 2 classes for my long-awaited bachelor of arts in English degree! I am almost finished!

I spent this evening much like most of my evenings have been spent for the last several years--working on my homework.  Such is the life of a part-time college student with a full-time job. I go to work five days a week, church on Sunday and Wednesday, and college three days a week. This is my life, and I'm actually quite content with it. I have had to become very organized to keep on top of everything. With God's help, I have managed.  

So, I was sitting here trying to relax when suddenly the thought struck me that nights like this are a limited edition now. I have only one more semester of spending almost every evening working on homework. Only one more semester.  Wow.

It hasn't been all bad. As I have said on this blog before, I love school! I always have. I guess you could call me a life-long learner. I was flipping through old journals recently, and I came across this peek into my life 7 years ago. It's an entry from May of 2007, after I graduated with my associate degree:

"It’s been such a long journey. It took me 15+ years of going one class at a time at first, then 2 at a time for about 2 or 3 semesters.  Then I would quit, convinced I couldn't do it.  I would be out of school for 2 or 3 years, then start back again.

"I went off and on. I changed my major 3 times. There was a big push in the mid 90s, another after Jeff left for college in 2000.  Each time I started back, I quit because I was afraid I couldn't do it. I wouldn't try because I was afraid of failure. Last fall, I discovered how close I was and decided I was going to do was a beautiful, wonderful and emotional experience.  It meant so much to me to finish this and actually have something to show for all the years of working 8 hours, going straight to school, sometimes 4 nights a week, and getting home exhausted about 9:00, with homework and housework still to do. Was it worth it? Yes it was! I am already registered for fall. I'm going to get that B.A. 

"I told my kids when they were growing up that they could do anything they could dream. I believed that for them, but I didn't believe it applied to me.  Today, I realized that it applies to me, too. There was so much emotion that I couldn't contain it. That realization kept bubbling on the inside of me until, by the time my row of graduates got up to go receive our diplomas, I'm sure little rays of light were just shooting out from me everywhere. I felt like I was going to explode with joy, happiness, love, and appreciation for those who have stood beside me and encouraged me."

If you are struggling with some kind of goal that you've been trying to attain, let me leave you with this little bit of encouragement. You can do whatever you set your mind to do. Sure, you may get discouraged at times and fall by the wayside. I did that several times.  The key is this:  when you fall down, you get right back up, brush yourself off, and start again.  Never quit.  You might pause for a bit, but don't quit. 

Don't give up.  You can do anything you can dream.

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."  Philippians 4:13.