STORMS

We are accustomed to extreme weather in Oklahoma, but this week has gotten our attention and tried our patience.  I’m talking storms!  I’m talking frog-strangling rains, baseballs of hail, bolts of lightening, rivers rising, dams overflowing, sirens blaring, and cell phones shrieking with ear-splitting warnings. And tornados!  Yesterday we had two dozen that hit the ground and numerous that didn’t.  A popular meme on social media called it “drop-a-witch-on-a-house” weather.  

So like most Oklahomans, we have a “fraidy hole.”  In our case, the only interior “room” in our house is a small closet under the stairs. And like most such closets, ours has slowly been accumulating stuff.  Jerry kept assuring me that in case of an actual tornado he could have that space emptied in seconds.  I wasn’t so sure, so on Monday when warnings were dire, we (I) decided that we should clean it out and make room for two humans and two dogs.  Mission accomplished.  It always feels so good to clean a space and get rid of junk…including a box still packed from our old house.  If we haven’t needed it in eighteen years, we probably don’t need it.

The point is, now we have a place to go when storms are coming right at us.  A place of safety, of refuge.  But where do we go when the storms of life threaten us?  When there is a different type of peril, one that threatens to overwhelm us?  I’m thinking of those I know with serious life-threatening illnesses.  And I’m thinking of their families, so concerned about the loss that might be coming.  I’m thinking of those I know who are walking through the valley of bereavement, who are flooded with rivers of grief, and blindsided by sudden memories that release fountains of tears again.  There are those who are going through financial storms, so worried about the wolf at the door.   And those who are walking through relationship storms, including the storm of divorce or estrangement from a family member.  And there are those who are scared to death about a child who has veered from a safe path.  

Where do you go when these types of storms are bearing down on you?  You go to your interior safe room.  To your internal prayer closet.  You go to that place down deep in your soul where you meet with the only One that can protect you from the trials and tribulations of life.  You meet with Elohim Machase Lanu, God our refuge (Psalm 62:8).  You turn to Jehovah Magen, the Lord who is your shield and helper (Deuteronomy 33:29), to Jehovah Mauzzi, the Lord your fortress (Jeremiah 16:19) and to Jehovah Mephalti,the Lord who promises to deliver you (Psalm 18:2).  There is something so powerful about praying His names!    

Here is the truth.  We can plan and prepare, but our only real protection from the storms of life is God.  Sometimes He delivers us from the storm, and other times He delivers us throughthe storm.  No matter what storm you are facing, you can rest assured that El Shaddai, the sufficient, almighty, God of Heaven, always comes through and always accomplishes His purpose for us and in us (Genesis 17:1).

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the 
LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”  
Psalm 91:1-2

Mother’s Day

The older I get the less Mother’s Day is about being honored and celebrated and the more it becomes a day of gratitude.  I am so very grateful for the privilege of being a mother.  Let me say at the beginning, I recognize that Mother’s Day is a difficult holiday for many. Perhaps you have lost your mother or have a difficult relationship.  I get it. I remember many years standing in the Hallmark store with tears in my eyes thinking, “There is not one Mother’s Day card for my mother.”  It also may be difficult because you desperately want to be a mother and for whatever reason this has not happened.  Maybe you have lost an unborn child or children and this day is a painful reminder.   And tragically, you may have given birth to a child who later died.  My heart breaks for you.

I am richly blessed with three wonderful daughters.  As my wise sister has often reminded me, most of us get two shots at the parent child relationship.  The first opportunity is with our parents, and then later with our own children.  Even if you don’t have the relationship you would like with your parents, you can still resolve to have a good relationship with your own children.  Sometimes our best parenting lessons come by learning what not to do.

The greatest Mother’s Day gift I have ever received is the gift of being a mother.  I can still vividly remember the overwhelming love I felt for my firstborn daughter as she was placed in my arms.  And the surprising relief that I could feel the same amount of love for a second and a third daughter.  A mother’s love is never divided: it is multiplied.

I am also blessed that my grown children live nearby and I get to see them often.  I really like the women they have become, and I enjoy spending time with them even if it is just a quick pop-in visit.  And I am, so proud of them as mothers.  They have blessed me with nine beautiful grandchildren.  It is more than I ever could have wished for! 

There are many gifts in motherhood, but I think the greatest is that it truly teaches us about the heart of our Father.  I can remember the frustrations I felt as a young, overwhelmed mother.  There was nothing I could take to God that he had not already experienced.  “Oh Lord, they are always wantingsomething!” (Yes, I understand.  My children only come to me when they need something.”) “They don’t appreciate how much I do for them!”  (Really? How often do you thank me for all I do for you?”)  As they got older I complained that they were too busy for me.  I certainly didn’t surprise God with that one!  (“Hmmm.  My children are too busy for me too!”)   Of course, I always realized that God was referring to me.  As a parent, God has been so patient and loving with me.  

I remember when my babies were little my precious grandmother would tell me, “These are the best days of your life. One day you will want them back.” She was so right.  The days are long, but the years are short.  Oh, I don’t want to go completely back to the child-rearing years.  But I would just like to have one day, one hour with them as children.  One more handmade Mother’s Day gift.    I would love to have them snuggle up next to me and just bewith me.  Maybe that is what my Father wants: a day to just be with me.  A day when I don’t come to Him with my want list.  A day when I just enjoy His presence.    

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Psalm 127:3 (ESV).

A RACE WELL RUN

When she was a little younger, our daughter ran marathons.  She still runs for fun, but doesn’t do the rigorous training any more that a marathon requires.  Before she started running I had realized what a fun spectator sport a marathon is. We would go with her to her races to be her cheering squad.  We would map out her route and pick strategic spots to wait for her in order to cheer and encourage her.  Marathons are fun!  There are crowds all along the route, cheering, ringing cowbells, and playing music, even if they don’t personally know the runners.  We would see her at the starting line and then drive ahead in our car, or in big cities, take the train in order to arrive at locations ahead of her. Sometimes she would ask us to be at certain spots where she knew she might need an extra bit of support, maybe a particularly difficult segment of the route.  And of course we wanted to be at the finish line, to witness her crossing the finish line and to hear her name announced.  To see her receive here medal.  Proud parent moments.  

There are multiple verses in the Bible that compare living our lives to running a race.  The writer of Hebrews encourages us to run with endurance the race that is set before us.  We each have our own race to run.  Parts of it may be relatively smooth, even joyous, while other parts are tough, like running uphill with a strong wind against us.  Sometimes it is all we can do to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

I was thinking about these things this morning as we prepare to celebrate the life of a friend who has crossed his finish line. If I use the marathon analogy to think of our friend Don, he could be compared to those special runners called elite runners.    They are different from the other runners; they are world-class athletes.  And they live their lives differently, spending hours training and recovering, and eating healthy foods.  They are committed, keeping at it even when they don’t feel like it.  They are dedicated to running well.  My friend lived his life differently too, spending hours studying and teaching and living the Bible.  He was committed to his Lord.  He ran his race well.  

As I have been thinking about these things, I have been wondering again what the death process is like. I suppose people have thought about that since the beginning of time.  What is it like to cross over from this life into the next?  For those of us who are Believers, we know that when we leave this body we go into the presence of he Lord (I Cor. 5:1-8).  But how does this happen, what does it look like?  In my mind, death is like the last leg of a marathon.  The spectators are the “cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews.  They are cheering us across the finish line.  In my imagination, those who are waiting close to the finish line are our loved ones who have gone before us, cheering us home. And at the end stands Jesus. Instead of receiving a medal, I want to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”  No doubt, my friend Don heard those very words.  Today as we celebrate a life well lived, there is a celebration in Heaven also.  A saint has crossed the finished line and arrived at home. 

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.  Psalm 116:15