Enduring the Storm

I don’t know why the tree died. Without exaggeration, most the needles on the pine tree were DSCN2258green, but four weeks later the entire tree was a desert brown. It was fascinating because all our other trees were in great shape. Well, I do need to tend the crepe myrtles and prune them a bit. Back to the pine tree later.

On May 20th, Pastor Bruce Boehmer (Siloam Springs Bible Church), his wife Julianna, and their family of five growing kids were here for dinner; but in the middle of the meal we had an interruption. The wind picked up; the tornado siren at the First Baptist Church sounded off; the trees began bowing, twisting, and seemingly dancing with the cyclonic air movements; and the rain blocked the view of the street from our front door.

Carol began packing the Boehmer family into the central bathroom, and Brother Bruce and I prayed at the front door. (Is that wise? Only God knows, but we are still here.) Suddenly a tremendous, long, deep-throated SWOOOOOSH sounded outside … and it was over. Maybe swoosh isn’t the correct word, but that’s the best I can do.

After a brief discussion we reconvened around the table to finish the wonderful meal Carol prepared, when suddenly, all electrical power went out! It was nearly dark outside, and darker inside. Still possessing my “safety officer” mindset, I ordered, “Everyone sit still. Don’t move.”

I have the house layout memorized so in the dark I headed for several flashlights that are strategically placed around the house for situations like this. Then Carol lit the ever-present candles we have around the house … for situations like this.

Bruce and Julianna decided to stay and finish “Dinner-by-Candlelight.” It wasn’t a romantic dinner but it sure was fun. In fact, Bruce said, “If I’d have known we would eat by candlelight, I’d have dressed differently. We all had a good laugh.

The Boehmers stayed another three hours and we were truly blessed by their visit. As they were leaving, Brother Bruce said, “This is one of the most memorable visits we’ve ever had; a visit we won’t forget for a long time!”

Carol and I slept in our LAZBOY® chairs that night because we wanted to be ready – just in case. I wondered if the tree house that our grandkids (Kitten and Lamb) had played in several months previously had blown over, but we’d have to wait until morning to find out.

The power came back on around 8:02 the next morning, and all was well in our neck of the woods … sort of. A number of trees in our neighborhood had been damaged, and the steeple of First Baptist was at an awkward angle. Upon inspection, the tree house in the back yard was just as sturdy as ever; but we thought for sure the dead pine tree in our back yard would be down. It was a concern because it was oddly-shaped and heavy; and if it had dropped it would have badly damaged the house. Amazingly it withstood the tempest.

Our son, Ron, who lives in Oklahoma City, was an avionics technician at Tinker Air Force Base but he takes down trees on weekends. We called him the next day to see if he could come out and drop this one for us. A couple of weeks later he and his family of thirteen kids (they’ve grown to 16 now) came for the weekend. That was a houseful!

Upon inspecting the tree, Ron said, “Just looking at the tree, it seems that the wind should have pushed it over, but it has a very solid trunk and the roots are deep. That’s what protected your house.” Over the next twenty-four hours, Ron and his boys professionally took down the tree.

But I started thinking about the emotional and physical storms we face. What keeps us standing in the face of the devastating storms of life? We must have a solid trunk and deep roots. I call the “solid trunk” loving friends and family, and the “deep root system” is our faith in God.

Whatever storms you are facing, remember what Hebrews 13:5b says, “I [Jesus] will never leave you nor forsake you.” And remember, Matthew 8:24 informs us that Jesus can calm any storm in life; we just need to trust Him. No matter the storm you are facing, you will not fall if you keep your roots – your faith – anchored in Jesus Christ.

Here are the lyrics to the chorus of a song written by Lewis E. Jones in 1901. I learned this song as a child.DSCN1990

I’ve anchored in Jesus, the storms of life I’ll brave,     
I’ve anchored in Jesus, I fear no wind or wave;
I’ve anchored in Jesus, for He hath power to save,
I’ve anchored to the Rock of Ages.

I hope Jesus is your anchor for life.

Slow Down and Live

Some years ago, I was sitting at my typewriter – actually at my computer – looking out the window. It was cold with a light breeze blowing. The clouds, which are usually water vapor, looked more like swirling snow ready to grace our countryside. My snow shovel was ready, my boots were at the door, and Carol could have hot coffee or hot chocolate ready within five minutes if I needed to leave my comfort zone to clear the sidewalk and driveway.

We lived in a community of 3,000 people in the hills of northern New Mexico at 7,825 feet above sea level. (For comparison, Albuquerque, NM is about 5,000 feet in altitude.)  

A winter storm would often drop two to three feet of snow at a time, sometimes up to five feet,PICT0181 and we would be temporarily locked in the house. That was great for the skiers, and it made the landscape look more beautiful than words can tell. And if there was no wind while the snow was falling, the big fluffy snowflakes absorbed all the background noise which created a living Winter Rockwell Painting. Beautiful!

If the snow was less than two feet deep, my 4-wheel drive vehicle with good tires would get me anywhere I wanted to go. But if it was deeper than two feet, we just stayed home. Carol would get out the coffee or hot chocolate; maybe bake several dozen cookies. We would start a fire in the fireplace, make sure the cat and dogs were warm if they weren’t playfully romping out the in the field; and Carol and I would do what we enjoyed doing best: Spend Time With Each Other.

With our schedules jammed and our lives so full of activity, being snowed-in gave us time to tell each other what we meant to say several days or weeks previously. We had time to actually LISTEN to each other.

PICT1265With critters in front of the fireplace, a table nearby with a puzzle or a scrabble game on it, steam rising from two cups of hot chocolate or coffee, a big window across the room with snow gently falling outside–we have another Rockwell Painting. Periodically I would go out and clear the walks and uncover the car before the snow got too deep.

Carol and I understand the value, and the need, to spend time together; so at times we still declare a “snow-day” and stay home. Years ago, we decided to slow down and live. Slowing down can actually make our lives fuller and richer. Not fuller with more things to do or richer with more money in the bank; but fuller and richer with what really counts in life.

Since we don’t have a guarantee that we will be alive on earth tomorrow, why not invest our time and our lives into people now? After all, material possessions can give satisfaction for a little while, but healthy, wholesome interaction with family and friends can last a lifetime–and beyond.

It’s called making memories together, and it’s more enjoyable than watching a football game.

When family members or friends that we love leave this life, we will miss them. We will be sad, and tears can flow. But if we invest our lives into them while they are here, we will have those memories to hold on to, and those memories will help sustain us in our sorrow.

More importantly, we should invest our time studying the Bible and learning to know Jesus. First Thessalonians 4:13-14, which applies to those who live for the Lord, says “But we do not want you to be uninformed about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. (NRSV)” What a promise! Therefore, even in sorrow we can experience joy.PICT0192B

Well, it didn’t snow that day, but my boots and the shovel were ready just in case it did. 

Oh, Carol just told me that lunch is ready. I think I’ll turn off the computer and spend time with her. Maybe we’ll play scrabble. We like that game. As of this writing, we are tied at 368 wins.

A Psalm for the Living

Have you read the 23rd Psalm lately? Okay, you may have looked at the words, but have you really thought about it? Have you ever become curious enough to dig into it to understand some of its life applications? Let’s read it (KJV), then look at it line-by-line.

IMG_2642The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The LORD is my shepherd. The Shepherd is never in doubt as to who belongs to him. And nothing can take us from Him (Romans 8:35-39).

I shall not want. I will have no lack in my life. All my needs (not talking about desires) will be met.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. I will live in peace. I will not have strife in my life for I trust the Shepherd.

He leadeth me beside the still waters. Through the Shepherd’s guidance, I will stay out of trouble and be safe.

He restoreth my soul. If I go astray, disobey, or sin, the Shepherd restores our relationship when I repent.

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. The gentle Shepherd doesn’t push – He LEADS me in respectable and conscientious living which honors Him.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Even though I go through rough and dangerous times, even though I have severe trials and hardships, I will not fear because the Shepherd is by my side watching over me. The Shepherd allows hard times in my life for my benefit. If everything went peachy-smooth all the time, I would never learn to trust him.

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. The Shepherd uses the staff to rescue, guide, and correct me; the rod is used for my discipline and to beat off predators and enemies.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. In the middle of both earthly conflict and spiritual battles, the Shepherd provides everything I need for both this life and in the next life. He never leaves me and shows me how to gain the victory. But I have to watch and listen.

Thou anointest my head with oil. The Shepherd has chosen me for a specific purpose or function, and promised that He will enable me and empower me to fulfill that purpose.

My cup runneth over. My life is complete. I am filled with blessings, friends, joy, and with confidence in the Shepherd that He will do all that He said He would.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. I will live righteously, and will show mercy to all those around me so that they, too, can learn to live for the Lord.

I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. I will live for the Lord, worship Him, and praise Him my entire earthly life, then throughout eternity.

After some study, I identified something that seemed to be missing from the Psalm.DSCN9839B There is an unspoken condition that is inferred after “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Many “sheep” who belong to the True Shepherd may not be enjoying all the benefits that this Psalm lists because they don’t understand or may not be aware of this unspoken condition. What is it?

Please read this next line several times: We must continually stay close to the shepherd and obey him. When sheep wander off, they can get hurt or killed because the shepherd can neither protect nor provide for them. The shepherd trains the sheep to follow him. He does not drive his sheep; he leads them. Therefore, the sheep must watch and stay close. As the sheep cooperate, all the shepherd’s love, care, and benefits are available to the sheep. But we must stay close to Him.

If we have truthfully accepted the leadership of the Shepherd, Jesus Christ, in our lives, this Psalm is applicable for us while we live! Then, if we have stayed close to the Shepherd, the Psalm is ever more comforting at the end of our earthly life. And the totality of its promises is guaranteed in heaven.