Contentment … a Choice

The sun shone brightly as we sat on the beach. Don and I had driven to Carmel to celebrate our September birthdays. I tossed a stick to our Cavalier, Paigey, who ran, dug underneath the stick so she got less sand in/on her nose, and then ran back to me. “Throw it again, Mum.” Her expressive eyes sparkled, anticipating the next chase. As the dark thunderheads moved above us, I felt a raindrop caress my ankle … then another on my arm, and another, and another …

Don had tucked the beach umbrella into the sand and adjusted it. Paigey found her dry place and tucked in. We had the beach almost to ourselves. We felt close, intimate, cocooned. Thunder roared and lightning flashed. And then the clouds moved and the sun reappeared, until another ominous grey cloud hid its brightness.

Just like life. Storms come, storms go. As my cousin said, “One thing is resolving while another stress is coming down the chute.”

Hurricanes Jose and Maria are following Irma; yet dear friends in Florida, where they just purchased a home, have seen neighbors work together to clear debris and begin the rebuilding process. Another friend lost none of her cattle, and “caught and released” an alligator from her garage, significantly inland from the Coast. Resolving, waiting.

We were never promised a life of ease. Instead, we ARE promised that our God will never forsake us–whether in the middle of the crashing storm or of a sweet life season.

Where are you right now? Are you in a storm or a sweet season? Sometimes they co-exist. I’m in a very sweet season in my marriage, but having shoulder replacement surgery this Thursday to ease pain and limitations I’ve had. I am blessed with a loving, protective husband and a close family unit. I have friends, a lovely home, a doggie who delights my heart. But … it’s so easy to despair when pain strikes, when I

can’t put dishes onto the shelf or hook my seat belt without pain. I don’t see surgery as a storm, but as a little cloud that will hopefully result in greater mobility and less pain down the road. Others face much larger storms, hurricanes, thrashing rain.

Where we look for help is key. God has given us Himself, not only to live within us but to also come alongside us, each day, in each need. As the apostle Paul said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12

Sometimes I am content. Sometimes I fret.

I choose to be content this week. Content in God’s great love and provision for me, His care for the smallest details. And to be thankful!

God … in the Storm

Hurricane winds, floods and storms are blighting our land. Irma closely follows Harvey, with Jose and others coming behind. People are dying, losing homes and worldly goods, and face a long reality of rebuilding their lives. On top of that, there are the personal storms of people we love … broken families, heartbreak, insecurity, fear, anger, loss, homelessness, and more.

Is someone you love going through their own personal hurricane? Troubled seas, high waters, loss of innocence. My heart is heavy for someone in my life who is carrying an overwhelming load. And I feel helpless. All I can do is pray.

And yet, isn’t that the very thing to which God calls me FIRST? When there are practical ways to help – food, shelter, rescue, emotional and physical support–all of which are happening in a major way in Texas, and now in Florida and along the East Coast–we do those. But sometimes there just isn’t anything our “boots on the ground” can do. So we pray: for wisdom, for others to come alongside, for courage, perseverance, long-suffering love, and healing. For protection of body, mind and spirit in the fight against the darts of the evil one.

So often I think “I can handle this …” And yet, there are times when everything needed is beyond any human control. And God tells us to call on His name for help. Lamentations 3:54-56 states this so clearly:

In the eye of the storm

“…the waters closed over my head,
    and I thought I was about to perish.

I called on your name, Lord,
    from the depths of the pit.
You heard my plea: ‘Do not close your ears
    to my cry for relief.’”

These are difficult times in the life of our nation. But God is able to bring good out of the storm. He is able to take the darts of the enemy and bring beauty out of ashes. He is able to impart His strength to the weak, His rest to the weary. My prayer for all going through turmoil, whether physical, spiritual or emotional, is Psalm 73:26:  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” May these be moments where God shows up in such distinct ways that we stand by, watching in awe.

 

So let’s discuss: what do you do when you can’t do anything?  

WHEN THE STORM OVERWHELMS

Harvey’s impact continues. This morning I saw a video of people and animals being rescued–beautiful horses who were caught in the underwater trees and couldn’t get free. The need is still overwhelming.

President Trump has declared Sunday, tomorrow, to be a NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER.

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 3, 2017, as a National Day of Prayer for the Victims of Hurricane Harvey and for our National Response and Recovery Efforts. We give thanks for the generosity and goodness of all those who have responded to the needs of their fellow Americans.”

And oh, how we need to gather together before the Father, corporately and individually, confessing our sin, our need, and crying out “Jesus, help us. Help our unbelief.”

I’ve wrestled with some tough questions in my own devastating times: Why is this happening to us? What is God’s purpose in suffering? And when friends asked me these questions, I was able to share that as believers we are not exempt from suffering in the world, from the effects of sin and illness. God has not promised to spare us, but He has promised “never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” (Heb 13:5, NIV), and to walk with us in all the paths of our lives, especially in the “valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4, NIV).

Friends are dealing with critical illness, with crushing despair leading to harmful choices, with trying to access medical treatment with limited staff and facilities. How do we respond when the storm overwhelms, when it doesn’t seem to lessen? W. David O. Taylor wrote about this from within the storm. I am attaching a link to his article here.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/august-web-only/when-jesus-doesnt-calm-storm-hurricane-harvey-houston-flood.html?share=

Let’s join together Sunday in corporate prayer for those in need, and for all who are serving others selflessly in Houston and other impacted areas. Let’s pray, too, for God’s intervention in the lives of those we care for who are hurting and need the loving touch of the Father’s heart.

I wish you His peace.

In the Midst of the Storm

Our area had 84 inches of rain last year, destroying and closing roads, limiting access to certain areas, keeping us indoors much more than usual. We were deluged.

But by the end of this week some Texas coastal areas could reach 50 inches of rain, which is the average rainfall for an entire year, according to a Reuters article (https://www.yahoo.com/news/houston-devastated-flooding-harvey-residents-gird-days-rain-005542738–finance.html). More than 30,000 people are expected to need temporary housing. Many have lost homes, household goods, clothing, food–everything material–following Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey. At least two people have already died.

My sister-in-law, on the outskirts of Houston, writes, “Hi.  So far we are fine.  Left my garbage can out to measure water and it just keeps overflowing. IT JUST KEEPS RAINING……..Am praying that there are no high winds because I have big trees front and back. The bayou is a raging river.” Her daughter is scheduled for critical medical procedures Thursday and Friday, but the hospital is closed!

Many of us have family in or near Houston, some of whom have been evacuated to other areas. Our hearts are heavy with concern. Emergency services are overloaded.

But we also hear stories of the community pulling together, like the man who took his pickup and invited families to attach their boats to his truck, then pulled out five or six boats (and people) at once.

I’ve been through tough times – loss, death threats, fear, illness – but I have a hard time imagining what it would be like to lose my home, car, everything that’s involved in daily living, and have to start totally from scratch. Yet that is what many will have to do.

Jesus said it is by our love for each other that the world will know we are His disciples. We have another opportunity to express and live that love with this crisis. Two ways we can help:

PRAY … 

… for those in need, for those reaching out, for emergency responders, police, firepersons, pastors, mayors, Governor Gregg Abbott, President Trump.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16.

GIVE …

James 2:15-17 speaks to me: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” 

Here are two of many reputable organizations that are working to provide help to Texas.

World Vision is stepping in to help. Check their information and donation site at https://www.worldvision.org/disaster-response-news-stories/hurricane-harvey

The Billy Graham organization is sending crisis-trained chaplains into areas affected by Harvey to provide emotional and spiritual support. See https://lp.billygraham.org/rrt-hurricane/?utm_source=hurricane+harvey+alert+email+all+08.28.17&utm_medium=bgemail&utm_campaign=bg

I pray that in the current crisis the watching world will see the love of Christ through us, His hands and feet in the world.

 

A Whale of a Time

We parked the car on the hill above Capitola’s famed Cement Boat, unloaded the dogs and picked up the binoculars, and walked to a nearby bench. As my friend Susan and I sat and talked, we scanned the ocean, watching. “There’s one” … “oh, look, over there …”

We trained our eyes on two boats, one a larger whale-watching vessel, people standing all along the side; the other a small dinghy with four or five persons in it. With their enormous camera lens and tripod, as well as their close proximity to the whales, we surmised they were photographing the creatures for a wildlife segment. I wondered at times whether that behemoth would just flip that little boat over … but he never did.

We sat on the crest of the cliff, enjoying the salty sea air, listening to the waves crest and break, hearing sounds of laughter and conversation from below. Awe captured us as we watched the beauty and enormity of this part of God’s creation.

Seeing these creatures of the deep in perspective with the two boats blew me away. At least one beast was longer than the larger of the two boats. Swallowing the prophet Jonah live would not have been a leap for these big guys. Susan and I watched in amazement as they surfaced, jaws open, to swallow the sardines they sought and found, water pouring out of their enormous mouths.

Wow!

This morning Don and I looked out the window to see “our” covey of quail busily hunting for worms in our yard. They are such fun to watch. They too give me a picture of our Creator’s care for us. There are always two or three scouts sitting on the fence, watching to ensure no predators are heading toward the covey as the birds scurry about on the ground. How do they know whose turn it is to keep watch? Somehow God has instilled an innate pattern or system into these little critters so they know what to do.

This has been a very difficult week for our nation. One group against another; hatred, violence, misunderstanding, “spin.” Yet we are all created in the image of God. His creation reminds me that He is still sovereign over this world, from the tiny quail, to the enormous humpback whale, to each of us, including those persons who deal in hatred and anger. God is sovereign, the great I AM; and one day, all will be made right. Meanwhile, I am reminded that the only way I can be at peace myself, or bring hope to my circles of influence, is to keep my focus on Jesus and on the grace, love and hope found in Him.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8 NIV

QUESTION: What keeps you afloat during these times of turmoil?