Storm Warning – Acts 27

Soon after moving to Florida, I was greeted by several serious looking men as I entered church one Sunday.  The men were distributing a large and ominous looking flyer entitled, “Will You Be Ready?”  What?  Is it the end?  Armageddon?  Nope, this is Florida and the men were part of my church’s Disaster Recovery Team and the flyer a guide to hurricane preparedness.  Hurricanes are serious business in Florida!

Technology can tell us that a major storm is imminent but what about the storms of life?  That diagnosis we didn’t expect to hear, the spouse who just walks out, the child who is on the path of self-destruction sometimes we get blind-sided but sometimes we are forced to realize that there have been hints and we just did not recognize the signs.

We’re Warned

Paul, the great traveler is now a prisoner in Caesarea and is ordered to Rome; as a Roman citizen he has appealed for a hearing before Caesar.  Winter is approaching and sailing conditions are not ideal, Paul warns against the journey but his warning is disregarded.  Are you being warned of an approaching storm?  A friend tries to confront you about your choices and behavior.  The principal of your son or daughter’s school calls you again to discuss their behavior in class. A persistent cough does not go away, your spouse wants you to see your doctor.  Your spouse is always angry, never home, unavailable by phone and in person.

Look for a Nugget

The sailors and crew decide that weather conditions seem conducive to sailing, they ignore Paul’s warning and set sail.  When criticized or told about a possible problem don’t immediately react defensively or in anger.  Not all criticism is valid but sometimes a nugget of truth, a warning, is buried in words that seem harsh or judgmental – not always, but give it some thought before dismissing it.

We Pull Up Our “Big Girl Panties”

Faced with a “life-storm”, we think, “Ok, I can get through this, I’m tough”  or maybe we create a plan of action to “solve the problem”.  Sometimes we are told, “Keep your chin up.”  “You can do it.”  “Act like a grown-up.”  Any or all of these might work for a short time especially if it is not a big storm.  But for Paul and the men on the ship, when the storm hits it hits big – a major Nor’easter.  As the ship begins to fall apart they use cables and ropes to undergird the ship, hoping to keep the ship in one piece.

We Compromise

We attempt to make deals with God, “God if you just get me through this I will never ask for anything again, I’ll start going to church again, etc.”  We make deals with ourselves, “I will only drink on week-ends.”  We make deals with others, “If you just stay in school you can hang out with your friends on week-ends.”  “I will only call you in an emergency.”  The sailors jettison all the cargo on the ship, hoping to lighten the load.

We Change Our Behavior

Next the sailors toss off all the ship’s tackle; they get rid of the tools they need to sail the ship.  We return to church, we pray and read our Bibles.  We give up smoking and start jogging.  We start cooking elaborate dinners and make sure our spouse knows dinner will on the table at 6.  We search the internet looking for 5 easy steps to health, happiness and self-improvement and jump right to step 5.  We stop drinking or maybe we start, just to calm down.

We Despair

God seems silent, our prayers are not being answered.  It is too cold, too hot, too rainy, too snowy, my calves hurt too much to jog.  The first night our spouse is late, we smile.  The second night when our spouse doesn’t arrive until 8, we seethe.  The third night we throw out the dinner and eat cereal from the box.  We give up.  We have tried everything we know to do, everything the internet has advised.  We enter the dark pit of abandonment, frustration, and despair.  The ship that Paul is traveling on breaks apart completely – all of their effort to save the ship and themselves has failed.

God will sometimes allow the foundation we have constructed to fall apart.  The sailors in Acts 27 depended on their ship to get them to Rome, in the midst of the storm, as the ship split and shattered, they abandoned hope.  Has your foundation been crumbling?  Are you down to one or two bricks?  The foundation of “doing the right thing”, “being good enough”, “a big bank account” – if you are building your life on things or appearances it can and will fall apart in the storm.

Paul shares the vision he was given and reminds his ship-mates to hold fast to God’s promises.  In the storms of life we need to remember the vision and the promises God has given us.  The Bible gives each of us a vision – a picture – of heaven, our future, eternal home.  A place full of God, His peace and joy, a place where there are no more tears, suffering or pain.  Each of us has also received many promises.  Promises that God will be with us through the storms, that He hears our cries, that all things work to our good.

Ultimately, Paul, the other prisoners, the soldiers and sailors reach land, and all of them survive the shipwreck and the storm.  I don’t know the storm you are facing today.  Some storms are so intense, so devastating that it seems hopeless.  But to those who believe in Jesus, we have a sure and certain hope.  Don’t despair, cry out to God, trust His promises, the One who calmed the storm and walked on water will run to you!

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Blogging 101 – Dear Dream Reader

Today’s assignment – create a post that addresses your “Dream Reader”, the person who hope to reach through your blog and do something different.

Dear Dream Reader,

Be encouraged, be inspired…

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:37 – 39

With a prayer for you…

Writing 101 – Personality on a Page

Today’s challenge: We all have anxieties, worries and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears. Today’s twist: Write in a style distinct from your own.

In my humble and amateur opinion, I want to be very forthright and let you know, dear reader, that I am neither a proud person nor do I possess any degrees or accreditations from any institutions of higher learning in any subject whatsoever much less a degree or license in the practice of psychology, psychiatry or other type of recognized mental health profession; I consider myself to be a person who possesses several anxieties.

In addition to the aforementioned anxieties, I will openly and publically state in this forum that there are also a variety of issues and situations, past, present and future that cause me to worry and even to descend into a state of fear so paralyzing that words, movement and any activity that is in any way indicative of responsiveness may be completely and totally suspended for an indeterminate period of time (at least in my conscious perception).

By far, there is one common and well known creature that I encounter regularly in my daily perambulations through my neighborhood and most notably in the numerous and well-shaded nearby public parks that strikes the most intense levels of anxiety, worry and fear deep into my psyche causing me to flee and, while fleeing, to flail my arms in a way that is both supremely infantile and embarrassing regardless of who may be in the vicinity to observe my intense distress.

Dear reader, some of you have been faithful and diligent followers of my posts during this Writing 101 challenge as I have endeavored to improve my writing competency by composing a well-thought out response to the daily writing prompt; many of which have caused me to plumb the depths of my soul, exposing my true self boldly for your reading pleasure and hopefully, your use as you also seek improvement as a craftsman (or craftswoman) who strives to effectively express yourself through the medium of language and words.

This particular piece of self-revelation has been designed for you dear and faithful reader, you have persevered so long to arrive at the dramatic conclusion of this post and the final revelation of one of my deepest fears, the one that causes me to retreat from the free and fresh air into the safety of my car and home, the worry that prevents my enjoyment of a simple meal in a public place while enjoying the cool shade provided by the boughs of a graceful willow, the anxiety disrupting my precious and much-needed rest and respite from my taxing days, oh dear reader, the conclusion to my tale of woe is at hand and I confess to your tender eyes and ears my fear of…

SQUIRRELS!

dMG63n

Writing 101 – Serially Lost – Part 2

Earlier in Writing 101, you wrote about losing something. Today, write about finding something.   Today’s Twist: Make this part 2 of the series started on Day 4 of Writing 101.

When she found me I was in the middle of a panic attack. Gasping for air like a marathon runner at the end of a race, I was paralyzed, rooted to my spot on the asphalt. I knew if I moved even one more step my guts were going roar up from my stomach, through my throat and explode out onto the pavement. My fingers were tingling, my scalp was itching, I was sure I was going to pass out. It was my first day at a new school.

All around me everyone seemed to know where he or she was going. Kids were shouting greetings to one another. The girls were ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over new hairstyles, new shoes, new backpacks and book bags. The boys, of course, were shuffling around punching one another in the shoulder, laughing in embarrassment as they watched the girls with sly glances. Me? I was just standing there – a panicked, paralyzed outsider.

The first bell sounded its warning and all of us began our slow, reluctant, progress inside, I inched my way along at the fringes of the crowd. In the mass of kids I felt someone tugging at my sleeve, “Hey, hey. Are you new here?”

I turned to see a face, not just any face, a smiling face, a friendly face, a VERY friendly face. A friendly face looking right at me! “Yeah, this is my first day, “ I managed to choke out. “Oh wow! Then you don’t know anybody! Do you know where you are going? I bet you don’t. I can show you. I know where everything is. What’s your homeroom? Where do you live? I used to live in Boston but now we live here. It’s pretty nice here, you’re gonna like it. I didn’t really like it at first but now I do. See, here is the cafeteria; everybody eats lunch in there. Did you bring a lunch? It’s ok if you didn’t, you can buy one. Don’t worry I can help you. I like your shoes.” She bombarded me with dozens of questions and never took a breath! It was amazing, it stunned me and, best of all, I was no longer panic-stricken!

Her face was full of expression and she was in constant motion, pouring out her questions and sharing important information in a verbal flood. As she pointed out different rooms and teachers, she kept nudging me forward into this unknown school. Dark hair, dark eyes and an up-turned nose sprinkled with freckles. It turned out we had the same first name, both of us had annoying brothers and we both loved to read. I found all this out and more within those first few minutes.

My new friend had found me.

Little Lizards

Little LizardsLots of little lizards live here on Florida’s Gulf Coast; my best guess is that they are Southeastern Five-lined Skinks. These little guys are really quick, interesting to watch and very afraid of people – they run when they see you. Anyway, the other day, I opened my door to come in the house and I wasn’t looking. A tiny skink ran into my living room – ARGH!!! NOOOO!!! Generally I am not afraid of little animals/bugs UNLESS they are in my house – then PANIC!!! Skinks are completely harmless and they are fast!! Of course, he ran behind the extremely large wall unit and there was no possible way to get him out of there. Bottom line, I had to go to sleep, knowing this dude was in my house, hoping he would stay behind the wall unit in the living room and not decide to explore. I insisted that the living room light be kept on overnight, don’t ask me why, and made lots of noise when I started moving around the next morning!!!

Fear is an interesting thing.  Fear can range from alarm to panic, from the creeps to terror.  Fear can be the shivers, the willies or the heebie-jeebies.  Fear can cause awe, hesitation or complete temporary paralysis.  Fear can be powerful and rule our lives if we allow it.

What keeps you up at night? What are you afraid of?? What do you dread??  The world is a frightening place. In addition to skinks, there is much to fear, lots to worry about and things to dread. Planes crash, illness happens, evil abounds; so much is out there it is a wonder anyone ever leaves the safety of his or her home – EVER. Some of the things that scare me the most are in my own mind; my thoughts can spiral downward to a point where I am paralyzed with worry and anxiety about money or the lack thereof, fear of the future, the direction of my life. I can choose to be immobilized by my fears or work to master them.  I have learned the only way for me to conquer my fears, my rational mind must fight back.  I need a powerful weapon; I must focus on what is true, what is good. I look to the Lord, I look to the Word, I look to the one who is The Word.  When fear grips me, I recall Psalm 27:1, my “theme” verse for 2014…

“The LORD is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the defense of my life. Whom shall I dread?”

The LORD is my light. I do not need to be afraid of people who are thoughtless, destructive, or deliberately evil. I do not need to worry about the direction of my life.  He will shine in the places of darkness even if the darkness is in my own mind.  He will light my path.  His light will reveal what is true and drive away darkness!

The LORD is my salvation. I don’t have to panic in stressful situations, during a confrontation, when money is tight. He will rescue me and put me in a place of complete safety! He will provide a way and for my needs.  He has a place of ultimate safety prepared for me – Heaven!!

The LORD is the defense of my life. I don’t have to defend myself if someone slanders me, gossips about me, or intends to harm me in any way. He will be my defender and protector! He will fight the battle in my own mind.  He cannot be defeated!

Does fear overwhelm you at times?  How do you fight if?  I welcome your comments!

PS: I haven’t seen my little visitor all day. I am hoping he found his way out but just in case, the light WILL be left on…