Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The things that never happened


I’m at a friend’s house after returning from a doctor’s appointment with her. She had a major surgery a few weeks back and complications set in. According to information given her by the doctor earlier, we anticipated what might be a very difficult appointment. Perhaps even a return to the operating room.


But it didn’t happen.

Her status was better than expected.

I’m sitting on her screened porch as the sun sets and glints off a maple. So thankful. So very, very thankful for God’s grace in the things that never happened.



Perhaps this is a different take on Thanksgiving this yearbeing thankful not only for what we have but for what we don’t have, all that God has kept from us. Like the sickness we never had, the accident that never happened, the financial problem that failed to develop, the car didn't quit, or the friend that never left. The list goes on.

The sunbeams hit my hand as I type and leaves shower down around the porch. Up the street, a father plays basketball with his sun, their laughter scattering in the air. In the beauty of this afternoon, I’m taking time to remember God’s gracious goodness demonstrated in so many ways.

The Psalmist might have been experiencing something similar when he wrote Psalm 145:6-9. Here taken from The Message, “Your marvelous doings are headline news; I could write a book full of the details of your greatness . . . God is all mercy and gracenot quick to anger, is rich in love. God is good to one and all; everything he does is suffused with grace.”

As we enter this season of thanksgiving, friends, I pray we are more aware than ever of the all the ways God has “suffused” our lives with grace, especially for the things that never happened.

I'm so excited to share the cover of my new book releasing in January,
A Plan for Everything!
 

It is the sequel to, A Key to Everything available HERE.


 
 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Rusty, and what we won't forget


Rusty Griffin and Jerry Varnado in their early years.
This past week, Jerry lost a lifelong friend, Rusty Griffin.

Because Jerry is a pastor, we attend and/or conduct many, many funerals, but I can’t remember one that was more inspirational than Rusty’s service.

Here’s why . . .

Rusty grew up in a small town where his family owned a regional agricultural chemical business. Rusty’s father died when Rusty was in his mid-twenties, leaving him to run the company. One speaker at the service jokingly said many were just waiting to see how long it would take for the business to fold.

But Rusty took a hard look at the future of the market and made what might have seemed at the time unorthodox choices. Those choices enabled the company not only to survive but to thrive.

He took that company operating in three states to one that did business not only nationally but in eighty foreign countries.

Additionally, he sat on prestigious state boards, served on the board of directors for a large entertainment company, and served as chair for a private school among many other accomplishments.

Somewhere along the way, Rusty could have decided to exercise his Christian faith in terms of being a benefactor alone. But Rusty didn’t accept a position behind a desk simply writing checks. He didn’t phone in his service. The day of Rusty’s funeral, he was scheduled to be in a state prison ministering to inmates, a place he routinely visited to share his witness. He also participated in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, The Mailbox Club, his church, and many other ministries.

According to Rusty’s obituary, “He desired to spread the name of Jesus across the globe.” In Sunday school this past Sunday, we covered verses in Deuteronomy 4. Interestingly, those verses were also my daily reading yesterday. As Moses was giving instructions to Israel just before they entered the Promised Land, he said in verse 6, “Observe them (decrees and laws) carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations . . .” That's what Rusty did. He lived his life with an intention to spread the name of Jesus among the nations.

God honored that desire with enlarging his territory as the prayer of Jabez says. (I Chronicles 4:10). God allowed Rusty to realize his heart’s desire through his global business and ministry opportunities. I would imagine that many of those he conducted business with knew of his Christian faith. Who knows what God has done through those connections? Sometimes, I think we forget how big God is and that He desires for us, as he instructed the Israelites, to reach the nations.

John Wesley wrote in his journal in 1739, “I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation.” I think it would be safe to say that Rusty followed Wesley’s admonition.

As family pictures scrolled before the service, the thing that most struck me was how joyful he seemed. His facial expressions were not “let’s all pose for the camera.” They were “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” His love of his sweet wife, Barbara, his three daughters, and nine granddaughters was so evident. Rusty and Barbara’s fifty-two years of marriage are a glory to God and a witness to all who know them. Truly inspiring.

Though we lived a distance apart, I feel privileged because of Jerry’s friendship with Rusty that I was able to be included in Rusty’s orbit a few times through the years.

He has left me with a renewed desire to leave it all on the field, to live with intentionality, to touch as many people I can with the love of God, and to create a legacy that will last.

Thank you Rusty, for all you’ve given us. We've heard your message loud and clear. We won't forget.

I'm so excited to share the cover of my new book releasing in January,
A Plan for Everything!
 

 
 




 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

My First World Problems


I returned home from helping a friend in Atlanta who had major surgery last week. I discovered as I exited my car I’d left my heart monitor doctors were using to determine the cause of a few symptoms I was having. I’m fine, but I needed that monitor. I turned around and went back to get it.

On my second return after around five hours in the car, Jerry and I did a quick turn around and went to an out of town high school football game. When we parked in the school lot, someone approached us to point out we had a flat tire. Jerry had to rush off to the locker room because he was the team chaplain, so I stayed to wait for roadside assistance.

As the mechanic wrestled with changing the tire, I was just about to stage a pity party for my challenging day. Then, I had the thought that these are first world problems.
 



Now that I’ve done a little research, I see that thought was right.

Only about a third of the households in the world have a working car. In many developing countries, that number drops to single digits. When a dear friend from Africa visits us, he will pass by a junkyard and want to stop and make a car. “Those cars would be on the road in Africa,” he says. The cars in our junkyards would be considered luxury vehicles in many places.

In fact, the car was only the beginning of the blessings I enjoyed that day. With this in mind, I give thanks for the surgery my friend had which was potentially lifesaving, for doctors who could do it, and for medical technology that even enabled me to have that heart monitor. I give thanks for our vintage but working car, for roadside assistance, which is virtually unheard of in many places around the world. The list could go on.

I say these things not to make us all feel guilty about our blessings, but to remember as we enter into this season of Thanksgiving to see clearly what God has provided. Let’s acknowledge His amazing blessings and to remember to share what we have with others. None of the aggravations I experienced a few days ago would have even been possible had not God already showered so much on our family.

Here’s to giving thanks in the middle of aggravating days and realizing we are so blessed.

“Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live” (I Thessalonians 5:18 The Message).

 I'm so excited to share the cover of my new book releasing in January,
A Plan for Everything!
 
 
 
 





Tuesday, October 29, 2019

An Explosion and the Joy that Comes from It

It's that time again--just two more weeks until Operation Christmas Child Boxes are due. My sister and I are about to put the finishing touches on our boxes. If you still haven't packed one or ten, there's still time. I have links below for you to follow in a post I've used from the archives. Happy Packing.

We’re going to have a big explosion around here this week. I’m opening the door to my front bedroom closet, which is so full, items are likely to shoot into the air. My sister, Tammy, and I are getting together  to put together our Operation Christmas Child boxes for Samaritan’s Purse. We’re hoping to prepare twenty-five boxes again this year. From that closet, I’m dragging bag after bag of school supplies, toys, and hygiene items to my dining room so we can assemble the boxes. It’s going to be a mess in there for several days.



In a wonderful turn of events, when I attended a Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference, I was asked to write a piece about the boxes we do for a Christmas Moments anthology Grace Publishing is producing called Merry Christmas Moments. I receive no royalties for this book, as all proceeds are donated to Samaritan’s Purse. This book is one in a series of Christmas Moments collections Grace Publishing has produced. I love that Gigi Graham writes the forward.

My article in Merry Christmas Moments is called, "Sharing the Gospel from my Exploding Closet." You can guess why. According to the Operation Christmas Child Website, “After receiving a shoebox gift, children have opportunity to enroll in The Greatest Journey Bible student course guiding them to what it means to faithfully follow Christ.” These boxes will bring joy to children in more than 100 countries around the world as they learn about God's love for them.

The boxes are quite an undertaking, but I love doing them. As I’ve written before, the way we are able to pack so many boxes is we shop all year at seasonal sales. My friend Dolly inspired me to do this. I don’t know how many boxes she packs, I’m sure in the hundreds, but she has turned her garage into Operation Christmas Child central and works on boxes all year.
 
So, get out there and pack your Operation Christmas Child boxes. You may not have shopped all year, but you can still do a few. Samaritan’s Purse has drop off locations all over the country. HERE is a link for them  and HERE is a link to the items needed for the boxes. If you don't have time to pack a box, they definitely take donations.
 
If you were wondering what to get your friends and family for Christmas, Merry Christmas Moments would make a great gift. It’s always great when you can give a great gift and help others at the same time.
 
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations" (Matt. 28:18-20).

If you're looking for a Christmas gift, Grace Publishing has an anthology called Merry Christmas Moments. I have an article in it entitled, "Sharing the Gospel from my Exploding Closet." Authors receive no royalties from this collection. Instead, proceeds go to Samaritan's Purse. HERE if you'd like to order.
 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A sheep encounter and lying down without fear


When Jerry and I arrived at the football stadium where our grandson was playing one Friday night, we discovered that in conjunction with homecoming events, the school also offered activities for younger kids. This included bounce houses, games, and a petting zoo. The petting zoo caused me (a younger kid at heart at least) to veer off the stadium path.

I knelt, talked with a sheep who was lying down, and told her how cute she was--just a Mimi and a half dozen toddlers huddled around her. The sheep baaed contentedly in response. I think she understood me.
 




My thoughts turned to a book I’ve been rereading, the classic, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, by Phillip Keller. Keller grew up in East Africa watching native herders and later made his living as a sheep rancher. He uses his shepherding experience to draw insights into Psalm 23. I reached for the book while preparing a children’s lesson, and it had been years since I read it, so it was almost like encountering it for the first time.

There’s so much to glean from these pages, but I’ve been pondering his comments about  Psalm 23:2a, “He makes me lie down in green pastures . . .” Keller writes, “The strange thing about sheep is that because of their very make-up it is almost impossible for them to be made to lie down unless four requirements are met.” You can read the book to find out about other requirements, but I’ll focus on one of themsheep will not lie down if they’re afraid.

Since sheep have few ways to defend themselves, if there is even a small sense of danger, they will not lie down. Keller shares that two dogs have been known to kill 300 sheep in one night. He pens, “In the course of time I came to realize that nothing so quieted and reassured the sheep as to see me in the field. The presence of their master and owner and protector put them at ease as nothing else could do, and this applied day and night . . . In the Christian’s life there is no substitute for the keen awareness that my Shepherd is nearby.”

A quote from A.W. Tozer echoes this thought. “The only safe place for a sheep is by the side of his shepherd, because the devil does not fear sheep; he just fears the Shepherd.”

If fear has entered your life for whatever reasonfinances, health, family circumstances, or bad news, remember what Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life to the sheep” (John 10:11). By His side, we need not fear. He has made the supreme sacrifice for us. He is our protector, our provider, and the One who truly makes us lie down without fear.

Through the years, I have often gone to sleep with these words on my lips, “I will lie down and sleep in peace for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8). Until recently, I have not connected this verse to Psalm 23. But now, I get it. Jesus as the good shepherd makes this possible.

The football game announcer’s voice sounded over the speakers, and I knew game time approached. I said goodbye to my sheep friend and walked on toward the stadium, grateful for the sheep encounter and even more grateful for my Shepherd.

I'm so excited to share the cover of my new book releasing in January,
A Plan for Everything!
 
 
 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

When Change is Hard


A lot of balls in the air, so I reached into the archives for this post, which seems relevant to me, at least. Maybe I need to read it more than anyone else this week.



My friend, Dolly, asked me to write on the challenge of change when we’re stuck in a rut and looking for fresh strength.  My sister, Tammy,  and I just had a discussion on that very subject last week.  


I can’t cover the whole gamut of the difficulty of change when we’re entrenched in our bad ways, so I’ll just address one of the most enduring challenges for me—and that is abiding with God in the middle of screaming external pressures.

In a Bible study, I’m currently doing, Priscilla Shirer says, “True abundance is really seen when you’re sitting in a prison circumstance, when you’re eye to eye with an impossible situation, and right in the heart of your impossible, you experience the fullness of God.”

So, the time to experience abiding and resting in God is right in the middle of a to-do list that screams to be done. Right here. Right now.

“But . . . , “ you say, “you don’t understand what I’m up against.”

We’re all up against. We all hear that voice that if we don’t get it done, the walls will cave in.

When I was trying to recover from Posttraumatic stress, people would tell me I was always in a hurry.

I was.

I was in a hurry to run away from the way I felt. But, of course, I couldn’t. I had to face it. Part of facing it was to stop, to be intentional about quiet moments. Often, I didn’t even want to sit, but I knew it was an essential part of my recovery. Instead of fighting the way I felt, I had to accept it. The way I felt wouldn’t kill me. In time, my legs and hands stopped shaking as I stopped fearing my feelings and the peace inside me grew.

We are the ones who often set ourselves up for shaking hands by our over scheduling and our excuses for not taking time outs. It’s almost as if we’re addicted to busyness. The time to stop that is now. The time for change is now.

And yes, we’re going to fail. Change is hard. But God’s grace is always there. I still struggle with hurrying, with feeling life is an emergency,  but God’s amazing grace comforts me in ways I can’t even explain.

I’ve been waking up singing this song for days. It’s taken from I John 4:4 " . . . greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." and it helps me to know that the One inside of me is greater than anything screaming at me from the outside. And when we’re trying to find fresh strength, when we’re trying to change, these words are great news.
 
There might be a commercial at the beginning. Just x out of it to get to the song, "Greater," by Mercy Me.



I'm so excited to share the cover of my new book releasing in January,
A Plan for Everything!
 
 
 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Saved from or saved in


A few days ago, I glanced at a green traffic light as I moved through an intersection. Just as I entered the cross roads, a black pick-up pulled right in front of me.
 
It seemed a black wall of disaster.

 
I stomped the breaks, tried to turn the car to navigate around the front of the truck, but it was useless.

 
The black wall rushed at me.

 
My tires screamed as they slid across the pavement and the scent of burning rubber assaulted my olfactory sense. I braced for impact.

 
Then . . .

 
The car stopped.

 
I leaned forward. My car was inches from the truck.

 
Shaking, I tried to take deep breaths. Yet, I marveled at how close I’d come.

 
I still had a ways to go before I reached home, but during that time, I reflected on all from which God saved me.

 
Later when I related the story to Jerry, he said an angel grabbed my back bumper to stop me.

 
I believe it.

 
Psalm 34:7 reads, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

 
I had a very real sense of God’s deliverance and a memory of a mealtime prayer that day which contained a request for God’s protection in travel.

 
Metaphorically, our lives can be filled with something like that black wall I experienced when the truck pulled in front of me. It seems calamity is rushing at us at lightning speed. Yet, God gets the last word.

 
I’m well aware God does not always rescue us from something, but rescues us in it. If we belong to Him, he uses all that touches us for our good and His glory. Years ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer, God warned me in advance that I faced a big challenge, yet, he chose not to save me from it, but to work through it. That's what He did.

 
Every day we live gives us more reasons to praise Him for what He has done and is doing, no matter what we face.

 
So thankful, friends, to be with you today.
 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The treasure she left behind


At our writer’s group meetings, we try to help every writer reach their goals. Those goals are as varied as the people a nurse practitioner works on an historical novel, a court interpreter writes a children’s book, a former executive secretary writes for a national magazine, a stay at home mom puts a non-fiction book proposal together, a bio-chemist pens a Bible study, a pastor inks a memoir, and the list goes on. Because I also write screenplays, we’ve even had a scriptwriter attend. However, some who come aren’t necessarily seeking publication.
 


Our friend Colleen was one of those. She wrote to capture her testimony for her children and grandchildren. She wanted to insure her family knew how God worked throughout her lifeto document His faithfulness. She understood memoirs are a hard sell to a publisher and their salability mostly depends on a person’s platform and reach, because publishing is a business. She wasn’t interested in developing that platform, so with that in mind, we tried to help her make the pieces readable, and always enjoyed when she shared one of them.

Three years ago, Colleen’s husband died unexpectedly, and the grief took a toll on her creativity. She dropped out of our group for a while, but a few months ago, Colleen returned. I was glad to see her writing, again.

At our meeting in mid-September, Colleen read a story about the peace of God. As always, the words were poignant. The gist was she decided not to let anything take away the peace God placed in her heart.

This past weekend, I clicked on a social media post. I couldn’t believe what I read. Colleen had died.

As I reeled from the shock of her unexpected death, I took comfort in that last story. It was as if she were leaving us with this message, “It’s fine. I have peace with God.”

Many people believe they should write a book. Sometimes our stories are for publication;  sometimes they are for encouragement to our families. If we are believers, the value of those stories is more than any other legacy one could leave and is worth committing to paper. Revelation 12:11 reads, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” The power of testimony helps us conquer the enemy. If you sense God’s leading in committing your story to paper, do it. Discipline yourself to write. In the writing, you too, may be encouraged as you revisit the faithfulness of God in your life.

Some operate under the delusion that we only write when inspired. No, we write as a discipline. We sit down at the desk and do what God has asked us to do. Of course, at times, we may have the feeling of inspiration, but we should not depend on that feeling alone to guide us.

Colleen was obedient to follow God’s leading. Because of her faithfulness, and despite her unexpected death, who knows what her writing might accomplish? What a treasure she is leaving. She has certainly left one to me.

Judy, another member of our group who raises butterflies will soon release one in Colleen’s memory. Dear Colleen, thank you for all you have meant to us. We sure will miss you.
 




 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Someone is Coming



 
Jerry and I found ourselves stranded downtown. Though, we didn’t attend a recent UGA game, we decided to go to the Letterman’s Club at the stadium and watch the game for awhile, then get a ride home after things calmed down a bit.  However, it was such a high profile game with about 100,000 extra people in town besides the ones who bought game tickets, accessing networks for transportation was virtually impossible. Unless you live in a big college town, it may be hard to understand the chaos that occurs on game weekends. ESPN game day and all that.

We could walkbut not all the way home. We wandered aimlessly a while uncertain of what to do but whispering prayers in our heart. Our friends were either at the game, otherwise occupied, or too far out of town. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a vehicle pull to the curb and a man exited. I wheeled around and dashed to the car, “Who do you work for?” I asked the driver. She told me, but it didn’t matter, we couldn’t access the network. I explained our situation. “Could you take us home? And if so how much?” I told her we had cash. The real kind. Not the virtual kind. The price turned out to be right.

“I’ll take you home,” she said.

We chatted on the way and a few minutes later, when we arrived, I told her she was a real blessing and an answer to prayer. “Amen,” she said. “Thank you so much,” and let me know she shared my faith. That might have explained her kindness.

Here’s the back-story. I hesitated to go to the stadium that night because the evening before my asthma cranked up and I was concerned about getting transportation when we needed it during such a high demand time. I wasn’t sure how far I could walk. At one point, I said I wouldn’t go, but then I realized I was letting fear call the shot. So I went, and my worst fear was realized when we couldn’t initially secure a ride.

But God. God knew we needed a ride and sent a Christian woman at just the right time.

So here’s what I was reminded of during my game day adventure: Don’t let fear rule. Step out in faith, because God is faithful. Someone is coming to help whether you realize it or not. You may not know their name or ever see them again, but God has dispatched them. Trust Him.

So today, if you’re feeling stranded on your own metaphorical street corner, believe that God sees you and is sending help. You are not alone and you are not without assistance.

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13).



Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Giants

The scouts went out and found a land replete with all that had been told to them. This was the Promised Land. After their expedition, they carried a sample of the luscious fruit growing there back to those in charge.

However, in the telling of their story, the appeal of the fruit was overshadowed by tales of giants and their strength.

 



“We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Numbers 13:33), they said and spread the news among their people causing a rebellion.

Moses and Aaron had to deal with a real mess. Of the twelve scouts sent into the Promised Land, only Joshua and Caleb stood to recommend the Israelites should proceed.

In the end, Israel would take the land but not with the ones who grumbled against God that day. Years later, their children inherited God’s promise.

As familiar as this story is to so many of us, we still forget it when the metaphorical giants appear. We’ve sensed God’s leading, and yet all we can see in our path are the huge obstacles hovering over us like behemoth bullies. We feel like, well . . . grasshoppers. About to be squished.

We make our excuses. Our really good excuses. We take a step back. Then another. The fear takes control, and in time we’ve convinced ourselves it’s better to stay where we are than take the risk.

All the time, God is ready and waiting to walk forward with us.

The prophet Elisha found himself surrounded by the horses and chariots of the king of Aram. Elisha’s servant expressed his dismay, “What shall we do?” he asked.

“’Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them’” (2Kings 6:16).

Elisha prayed God would open the servant’s eyes. “Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

God is bigger than any bullies we can see. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

So, if we’re feeling like grasshoppers, let’s pray God would open our eyes to see His presence overshadowing any obstacle in our path. We are NOT grasshoppers. Let’s walk forward into God’s promise repeating to ourselves that God is more. God is bigger.

God. Is. With. Us. 



 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Staying on the ship


In recent days, I’ve been troubled about two high profile people in ministry who have now announced they are no longer Christians.

My brain just cannot wrap itself around those declarations.
 
 
I keep thinking of Peter’s words, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69 The Message).

Early in my life, I drifted to a life apart from God and his principles. I am still living the consequences of the train wreck that ensued. After roaming down those dark roads, I know from experience there is nowhere else to go and no one else to whom we can turn. C.S. Lewis once wrote that God stoops to conquer. He did with me. Only after I had exhausted other avenues did I return to Him. Yet, despite those circumstances, God received me. He reached down to where I was with love, grace, and tremendous mercy.

In our time, it may be possible to become immersed in the trappings of Christian culture and lose touch with the person of Jesus Christ.  We can begin to focus on, among other things, the business of church, social media, the hypocrisy of others (and we all have streaks of it) and simply forget the main point our relationship with Jesus. Sometimes people in ministry can rise to platforms for which they are not prepared. Their level of influence can outstrip their spirituality. That scenario is a setup for a downward spiral.

I also know that when life grows difficult, people may feel abandoned by God. I don’t know if that was the case with the two I referenced earlier, but I know it is true for others because I’ve observed it myself.

As Jerry and I were discussing this, he offered what I thought was a profound insight.  He reminded me that on the Adriatic Sea, after many days of being battered by a storm, sailors traveling with the Apostle Paul intended to board lifeboats and flee. They wanted to avoid being dashed against rocks. Paul said this to those in charge. “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” So the sailors were directed to cut the lifeboats and stay. And so they were saved.

“You have to stay on the ship,” Jerry said. When life grows stormy, sometimes we have to cut what appears to be other lifeboats. We have to stay on the ship despite the storm and trust the only One who can truly save us. It’s what Peter said, “We’ve already committed ourselves . . . “ All those other options are detours and  will ultimately lead to destruction.

I will continue to be troubled over those who choose to jump ship but I believe even when they do, God is at work to bring them back.  

So friends, if life is hard right now, don’t jump ship. Stay with the only One who can take us safely to port.

Stay with Jesus.

 

 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

If you're in the eye of the storm

It's going to be a long week here in the Southeast as Hurricane Dorian churns up the coast. The Bahamas have already seen massive destruction. As we watch and wait I remember this post I wrote a few years back when Matthew passed through. As so many are facing the eye of the storm this week, our prayers go up and we do look to the One who is our hope.

I left a conference in Atlanta where I was volunteering and found because of Hurricane Matthew, many evacuees from the coast were making their way to where the conference was held to stay with family and friends until the storm passed. Evidently, because of this, every Atlanta thoroughfare was jammed to the max.

Despite dire predictions of wind speeds and storm surge, so many that evening were waiting, watching, and hoping  that they’d have a home after the storm passed. People were as we heard often “hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.”
 
The mother of a woman I worked with was in an intensive care unit in Florida where the storm was about to hit. All the doctors and nurses there were under 72-hour lock down. Repeatedly, my friend’s flights to Florida had been cancelled, but she still hoped to get a flight out the next morning to be with her mother.
While volunteering at the registration desk, a  pastor and his wife approached.  ”Could we transfer our tickets to next year? The storm is veering toward the area where we pastor a church and we feel we need to return,” they said, their concern and compassion spilling out. I felt for them driving so far having just arrived the day before.

Another family I know evacuated to the north, but their home sits on a coastal marsh. Any amount of storm surge could destroy everything they owned. This family had already suffered the loss of their only son a few years back. 

My heart broke as I prayed for these folks.

I inched along in the traffic. It was clear I was going to have an extraordinarily long trip home. I turned on the radio and “In the Eye of the Storm” played. Click HERE to listen.


I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate song for those who had left everything and were now stuck on the interstate wondering what the outcome might be. It’s as if the words were written just for them. Now I cried as I prayed.

I wondered about the person who wrote “In the Eye of the Storm.” How could he write such words if he hadn’t experienced loss? When I returned home, I did a little research.


The author, Ryan Stevenson, was a paramedic for eight years, lost his mom early in life, and he and his wife suffered the miscarriage of twin daughters. He said this in a New Release Today interview, “One of the things I've seen as a paramedic is that we all have true, real struggles, ugly parts of our lives that we are dealing with and failures and defeats. In the middle of that, when we feel our sails are ripped out in the battles and wars we are going through, we can feel like we float out to sea where the Lord isn't paying attention to us and He's overlooked us. I want this song to say no to that. His promise to us is that He is the anchor of our being, and He is our only hope.”


Ryan had written the song just as a personal testimony thinking it would never see air play, but God has used it over and over to bring encouragement to those going through hard times. And I’m sure Hurricane Matthew was no exception.


So now as I write, many are digging out. Some have found trees or wind have destroyed their homes or if they’re still standing, water has flooded them. Our prayers go out to those driven from their homes because of the terrible flooding. Sadly, many lives have been lost during the lashing of this storm. So even after the storm passes, there’s so much grief and heartache still to deal with, but we remember that last thing Ryan said: “His promise to us is that He is the anchor of our being, and He is our only hope.”


That works when dealing with the effects of a storm named Matthew or one by any other name, too.
God is a safe place to hide,
    ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,
    courageous in sea storm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans,
    the tremors that shift mountains (Psalm 46:1-3 The Message).

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