Saturday, September 6, 2008

Shelter From The Storm

Fleeing Gustav

Labor Day weekend my wife and I spent visiting our daughter in Baton Rouge. We had a wonderful time with our granddaughters. Unfortunately we had to cut our visit short because of Hurricane Gustav. As we made plans for the trip we were keeping an eye on the weather reports. At first it looked like we would be fine if we left Monday morning, but Gustav sped up, and we had to leave Sunday morning instead.

As we made our way home we were caught up in heavy traffic as 2 million people were evacuating South Louisiana. Why were so many people leaving? Today with satellites and television we have warning when a hurricane is coming. It wasn't always that way. Years ago weather forecasters had no way of knowing what was happening out in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, unless a ship captain relayed storm information. Many hurricanes caught people completely unprepared.

With the information that is available today, people have several days to prepare for a storm. When people receive warning of a storm they have two options. They can evacuate, or they can prepare. The reason that there were so many people on the crowded roads of Louisiana was that they had chosen to evacuate ahead of Gustav. They were looking for shelter from the storm.

There are storms in life that we should run from. About 2 million people ran from Hurricane Gustav when authorities asked people to evacuate. There are times in life when we can take ourselves out of harm's way. But sometimes we can't. There are those storms that we have no control over.

Take the case of Chippie the Parakeet. The problems began when Chippie's owner decided to clean Chippie's cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She'd barely said "hello" when "ssssopp!" Chippie got sucked in.

The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum cleaner, and opened the bag. There was Chippie - still alive, but stunned.

Since the bird was covered with dust, hair and all the stuff you find in a dust bag, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the tap, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air. Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.

A few days after the trauma, a friend who had heard about Chippie's troubles contacted his owner to see how the bird was recovering. "Well," she replied, "Chippie doesn't sing much anymore - he just sits and stares."

Who can blame him? Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . That's enough to steal the song from the strongest heart. Things happen in our lives that come along unexpectedly and we end up feeling a bit like Chippie - sucked in, washed up, and blown over – the song stolen from the stongest of hearts.

How can you deal with those kinds of storms? You can't evacuate. You can't run away from them. But you can prepare for them. How can we prepare for the storms of life? First thing to do is to look for shelter. Many homes in Arkansas have a tornado shelter. Our home doesn't, but we have a downstairs hallway with no windows that we use as a shelter in bad weather.

Where can we find shelter when the storms of life overwhelm us? In Psalms 46:1-3,11 the Bible tells us "God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear, even if earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! The LORD Almighty is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.

What a beautiful promise. God is our refuge. God is our shelter. He hasn't promised to shield us from every storm. But he tells us that he will always be with us so we don't have to fear.

The 3-year old felt secure in his father's arms as Daddy stood in the middle of the pool. But Daddy, for fun, began walking slowly toward the deep end. As the water rose higher and higher on the child, the boy's face registered increasing degrees of panic, as he held all the more tightly to his father, who, of course, easily touched the bottom. Had the little boy been able to analyze his situation, he'd have realized there was no reason for increased anxiety. The water's depth in any part of the pool was over his head. Even in the shallowest part, had he not been held up, he'd have drowned. His safety anywhere in that pool depended on his Daddy. At various points in our lives, all of us feel we're getting "out of our depth" -- problems abound, a job is lost, someone dies. Our temptation is to panic, for we feel we've lost control. Yet, as with the boy in the pool, the truth is we've never been in control. We've always been held up by the grace of God, our Daddy, and that does not change. God is never out of his depth, and therefore we're safe when we're "going deeper" than we've ever been.

Remember that there is no storm that is too big for our Father. Psalms 18:2 tells us "The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust"


  1. What a wonderful encouragement. Poor Chippie! I'd like you to tell me that didn't really happen, but I know it was too crazy for you to make it up! And I love that you used "parakeet" as one of your labels for this post! :-)

    Welcome to blog-land, Richie! See you soon!

  2. Thanks for your comment. I heard the story of Chippie second hand, but you are right, I just don't think someone could make up a story like that.

  3. Read this today in the Max Lucado book "The Applause Of Heaven"

    Peter knows he is in trouble.

    The winds roar down onto the Sea of Galilee like a hawk on a rat. Lightning zigzags across the black sky. The clouds vibrate with thunder. The rain taps, then pops, then slaps against the deck of the boat until everyone aboard is soaked and shaking. Ten-foot waves pick them up and slam them down again with bonejarring force.

    These drenched men don’t look like a team of apostles who are only a decade away from changing the world. And you can be sure of one thing. The one with the widest eyes is the one with the biggest biceps—Peter. He’s seen these storms before. He’s seen the wreckage and bloated bodies float to shore. He knows what the fury of wind and wave can do. And he knows that times like this are not times to make a name for yourself; they’re times to get some help.

    That is why, when he sees Jesus walking on the water toward the boat, he is the first to say, “Lord, if it’s you … tell me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28)

    He is aware of two facts: He’s going down, and Jesus is staying up. And it doesn’t take him too long to decide where he would rather be.

    Perhaps a better interpretation of his request would be, “Jeeeeeeeesus. If that is you, then get me out of here!”

    “Come on” is the invitation.

    And Peter doesn’t have to be told twice. It’s not every day that you walk on water through waves that are taller than you are. But when faced with the alternative of sure death or possible life, Peter knows which one he wants.

    The first few steps go well. But a few strides out onto the water, and he forgets to look to the One who got him there in the first place, and down he plunges.

    Peter’s response may lack class—it probably wouldn’t get him on the cover of Gentleman’s Quarterly or even Sports Illustrated—but it gets him out of some deep water:
    “Help me!”

    And since Peter would rather swallow pride than water, a hand comes through the rain and pulls him up.

    The message is clear.

    As long as Jesus is one of many options, he is no option. As long as you can carry your burdens alone, you don’t need a burden bearer. As long as your situation brings you no grief, you will receive no comfort. And as long as you can take him or leave him, you might as well leave him, because he won’t be taken half-heartedly.

    But when you mourn, when you get to the point of sorrow for your sins, when you admit that you have no other option but to cast all your cares on him, and when there is truly no other name that you can call, then cast all your cares on him, for he is waiting in the midst of the storm.