Archive | April 2016

Shaken!

It was just a week ago when Ecuador, a country that is near and dear to my earthquakeheart, suffered a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The toll has been devastating—654 dead thus far; around 16,600 injured; 58 still missing; 7000 buildings destroyed; more than 25,000 people living in shelters.  During this last week there have been more than 700 aftershocks and several strong tremors, one measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale.  Experts say the tremors will continue for weeks, earthquake3possibly months, to come.

My daughter’s family lives in Ecuador where they are missionaries. The earthquake occurred on the coast, about three hours from where the Naranjos live in the Andean mountain city of Cuenca.  They felt it, and continue to feel many of the aftershocks, but Cuenca was spared the destruction that the coastal region suffered.  Although other parts of the earthquake1city were shaken more strongly, for the most part, the Naranjos’ home—and their nerves—have only been rattled.  Many from their city, including the Naranjos, are donating supplies and some of their friends who have special skills or equipment are going to the stricken areas to help.

earthquake4One story, however, struck particularly close to home for the Naranjos. One of the men in their church is a Gideon. Ivan is often gone on Sundays because he is in other churches sharing the ministry of Gideons, which focuses on Bible distribution. Last weekend he was supposed to go to a three day meeting of the Gideons on the coast and present some reports. He called Fernando a few days before and told him he would not be in their church on Sunday.  Normally that is fine and they appreciate and understand Ivan’s work in the Gideons, but this time earthquake2Fernando asked him if there was any way at all he could get out of going.  They were having a very special service on Sunday and Fernando really wanted Ivan to be there. Ivan called one of the other Gideons and told him he would not be at the meeting because he felt he needed to be at his own church.  A couple hours later the man called him back and said they had decided to postpone the whole weekend because they really needed Ivan to be there to give his reports. It turned out that the house where the meeting was to be held was flattened like a pancake during the earthquake at the exact time the Gideons would have been meeting. Most likely, all those meeting in that house would have been killed.  As it turned out, six of those men who lived on the coast did lose their homes, but praise the Lord for His protection of these Gideons who faithfully try to spread His Word!

As the week wore on, Laurie came to the point where she could not even watch the reports anymore. They were too heartbreaking and she could not get past the thought, what if that had been our family in the midst of all that devastation? How would we provide for our children?  What would we do?  As Christians, of course, we know that God is in control and that we can, we must trust in Him, but we have all wondered how we would deal with the day to day hardships in such a tragic situation.

Thousands on the coast of Ecuador are struggling with the reality of those questions as their lives have crumbled around them. Life for most of them, who were already in poverty, has become a thousand times more difficult. The new normal for many weeks, months and perhaps even years to come will be trying to cope with the death, destruction, devastation and despair the earthquake left behind. We can only pray that from it many will turn to the Lord for strength and comfort and that eventually, as they rebuild, the result will be better than what they had before.

It only takes an instant for our world to change, perhaps even to crumble. When it happens – not if it happens, for one way or another we will be touched by change – will we crumble along with it? Are our foundations strong enough, our roots deep enough, to withstand the earthquakes of life? We sometimes go through life waiting for the other shoe to drop and fearful of that day when life will no longer be normal and we will be faced with the unexpected, the unthinkable, the unknown. Are we prepared?

A big part of the problem in Ecuador was the poor construction of the buildings and infrastructure in the earthquake-stricken areas. If our lives have weak foundations we will be hard-pressed to withstand the major trials and changes of life. Jesus said that He is the foundation upon whom we ought to build our lives. Luke 6: 47-48 says, “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could **-not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.” When we have given our lives to Him, and truly trust Him to do what is best for us, we can live our lives without fear now and face with peace and hope whatever comes in the future.

If I ever have to face such a terrible calamity as this, I pray my faith would remain strong. Whether it wavers or not, though, I know this one thing, He is faithful and will never leave me or forsake me.   (Hebrews 13:5b)  Who knows what a day will bring forth? God knows. We can choose to look forward to the future with expectancy and hope, as my husband likes to say, or we can live fearfully, afraid of whatever will rock our world. I like life at “normal,” but when it goes off-balance or crumbles altogether, may my foundation hold.  “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:6)

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Overwhelmed!

It’s springtime—at least on the calendar—and that means weird weather. This last week has certainly showed us a little of everything—beautiful, warm days that give us hope that winter has finally lost its grip; snow flurries that say uh, not exactly. Nice breezes, gale-force winds.  Drizzles, showers, downpours.  Today we are supposed to go from a low of 27° to a high of 63°.  Crazy.

Yesterday it seemed like Mother Nature could just not make up her mind. I had spent the night at my mother’s.  When I left to run a few errands on my way home it was overcast and a few snow flurries were gently falling.  When I came out of Walmart the snow had stopped but the wind was kicking up and it felt colder.  By the time I got to Meijer’s it seemed to be clearing up and a beautiful rainbow hung in the sky.  I came out of Meijer’s and it was overcast again.  I was less than a mile from home, though, when I saw something I had never seen before.

The street was dry, but up ahead a few blocks there seemed to be something strange on the road. I peered through the windshield, trying to discern what I was seeing.  A line of white appeared to be across the road, and as I drew closer to it, it seemed to be approaching me—fast.  Above it was a wall of white. What is that? I wondered.  The wall looked like maybe a cloud of fog hung right there on the road, but it was moving too quickly.  That line of white on the street—could it be…?

I did not have long to wonder. Within a block or two I drove right through that wall and into whiteout2a blizzard—and not just a blizzard, but a complete whiteout!  One second it was clear and the road was dry, and the next I could not see the sides of the road or the cars around me.  I felt like I had been suddenly swallowed up in the Twilight Zone.

Most blizzards begin with a few snowflakes, then a few more, and escalate into something big. This was first nothing and then BAM!  I had crossed the line into the midst of that something big.  I knew I only had about four blocks to go before I could turn off that street, and then another block and a half to get home. I proceeded cautiously.  I could see headlights of oncoming cars coming out of the white as they got close, and fortunately I was able to pick out the traffic light just before I crossed under it.  The building on the corner where I needed to turn loomed out of the murky white, and once I had made the turn and did not have the blizzard driven directly into my windshield, it was a little easier to navigate the rest of the way.  By the time I got home two minutes later, the worst was over, and by the time Bob got the groceries into the house the whole storm was over.  The blizzard had blown over almost as suddenly as it had appeared.

It took me a while, however, to shake that odd sensation that I had of feeling as if I had been swallowed up in that wall of white. I likened it in my mind to what one would feel if they were suddenly engulfed in a tidal wave, or had stepped blindly into a deep chasm. Overwhelmed.

Most of us have felt overwhelmed at one time or another. We try to juggle too many things, and we feel like we can handle it until one day—we can’t.  Or the problems keep piling up—and piling up.  Or just one big catastrophic calamity lands suddenly in our lap.  Or we are sinking in a world of hurt.  Whether everything has come crashing down around us, or overwhelmed5we’ve been buried in stress, crushed beneath the weight of sudden disaster, or submerged in heartbreak, we are overwhelmed.

The Israelite army ran and hid, overwhelmed, when they were confronted with the Philestine giant named Goliath—until a shepherd boy came along, and with God at his side, slew the giant. (I Samuel 17) There is no Goliath too big for God.

King Jehoshaphat and all of Judah were overwhelmed when the great army of an alliance of nations marched against them until God told them “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (II Chronicles 20:15) Don’t worry! It’s not your battle, but Mine! There is no battle over which He cannot claim the victory.

When Elijah was so overwhelmed with depression that he wanted to die, God ministered to him through an angel. (I Kings 19)  He provided for his physical needs—rest, food, comfort—and for his emotional needs as well, speaking to him to tell him of a helper and support—and hope. There is no need that He cannot fulfill.

The disciples were overcome with fear when a great storm suddenly threatened to sink themPeaceBeStill-1145annJMJ. When they woke Jesus, however, He calmed the storm with simply His words, “Peace, be still.”(Mark 4:36-41) There is no storm He cannot calm.

Noah and his family might have been engulfed in the Great Flood. (Genesis 6-9) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have been consumed in the fiery furnace. (Daniel 3) But there is no fire or flood through which He does not carry His own.

The Scriptures contain many promises that bring comfort and peace and hope to us when we are overwhelmed. Here are just a few:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  (John 16:33)

overwhelmedCast your anxieties on him, for he cares for you.  (1 Peter 5:7)

From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  (Psalm 61:2)

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything. but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  (Philippians 4:5-6)

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, Then You knew my path. In the way in which I walk They have secretly set a snare for me.  (Psalm 142:6)

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  (Matthew 11:28)

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.  (John 14:1)BeStillAndKnowThatIAmGod

There is none holy like the LORD: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. For there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.  (1 Samuel 2:2)

Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. (Psalm 37:5)

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  (Matthew 19:26)

Be still, and know that I am God.  (Psalm 46:10)

 

Do not be swallowed up—overwhelmed—by the cares of this world. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)

Never leave or forsake