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Posts Tagged ‘Storm’

Here’s imagesXTVDN01Vhow it went for me last night. It was only Wednesday evening and it had already been a long week with lots of stress and busyness. I finished a full day at work, came home and fixed dinner, started a load of laundry, visited a sick grandchild and spent almost two hours helping another grandchild with literature homework. I was ready for a break.

But before I sat down I slipped into the kitchen to clean and put some dishes in to soak. Squirting a little dish soap into the sink I turned on the hot water and while it filled, I poured a cup of coffee and carried it into the living room, setting it on the table by the puzzle I’d started a few days ago. And then I was distracted searching for an elusive piece. So I sat down and before I knew it I was involved in the puzzle, sipping my coffee and letting my overtaxed mind settle.

It was nice – the flickering light of the pellet stove, the quiet broken only by the gentle drip of rain on that mild autumn evening. I listened to the rain and shuffled puzzle pieces for at least a half hour. I don’t know what it was that kicked my brain into full gear and brought the sudden realization that it wasn’t rain I was hearing. It was the water I’d started in the kitchen sink overflowing on to the floor!

I jumped up, ran into the kitchen and nearly killed myself as I hit the wet floor. I am not exaggerating when I say there was a veritable flood! I could not believe it had taken me that long to realize what was happening. I could also not believe my husband had been sitting at his computer at the other end of the room and had not noticed the disaster.

Not only was the floor flooded but several cabinet drawers had filled and everything on the countertops was sitting in water. All the linens were wet, the rugs were sopping, the water was dripping down into the basement, and – well just know it was a complete catastrophe.

For the next two hours as we mopped up, soaked up, wrung out and emptied out – I kept berating myself for letting that water run as long as I did. Why hadn’t I taken care of it immediately? Why had I even walked out of the kitchen without turning it off? Why had I let myself be deluded by the subtle sound, thinking it was a gentle rain and wouldn’t harm anything? I was thankful I’d finally come to my senses and put a stop to things, but I berated myself over and over that I hadn’t done it sooner.

It was a good though messy lesson. Too often I let things go on when they need to be shut off. I lull myself into thinking they aren’t going to do damage, or delude myself into thinking it’s just a gentle rain not a torrential storm. I get so caught up in other things I don’t pay attention to the subtle reminders that something is amiss – until the ark starts to float in a sea of trouble.

Which is what started my stressful week in the first place – having to turn off a flood that was overflowing far too wide and deep. Just like in my kitchen, I may have finally turned off the water, but that didn’t decrease the big mess that had to be cleaned up.

God, cleanse me of complacency. Make me bold when it comes to defending You, Your holiness, Your direction. Even when I know it won’t be popular, don’t let me stifle my actions when they are clearly called for and Biblical.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 1 Cor 16:13

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imagesQARDRAR3Having just finished our first and very successful Community Outreach Harvest Party at church I’ve been contemplating all the parts and pieces, comments and participation that made up this event.

It was a ton of work. Planning meetings and prep and set up just about did me in. And then just keeping things running on the day of the event challenged us all.

It took a ton of prayer and faith. You never know how these things will go. You can invest a lot of time and money and see no result or you can plan for a few and end up with a bunch.

It took a ton of courage. My least favorite thing in the whole world (with the exception of peas and squash) is going door to door to hand out flyers. But – I did it and found it not nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be.

It took a ton of risk. We risked doing away with our regular Sunday morning church service to move out of the building into the parking lot to try to catch the attention of the neighbors. But just like in the stock market, sometimes risk pays off. And it did with this event. We had fun and made contact with several families we otherwise would not have.

The biggest lesson for me and I hope for others was – church isn’t all about a nice comfortable seat in a nice sterile sanctuary where you sit back and get fed. Just consider the early church and the effort it took to get it going.

In order for the first churches to get off the ground 2000 years ago, a ton of work went into the preparation. The disciples had to plan long journeys on foot, by boat and maybe on horseback. They had to map out the most efficient route and plan for finding provision and shelter along the way. A mission trip back then wasn’t jump on a plane and be on the mission field in a few hours. It took months, years even, just to get where they were going.

The startup churches took a ton of prayer and faith. After all, they were trying to change hundreds of years of tradition and belief, ritual and law. They were leaving loved ones behind, possibly to never see them again. They didn’t have a Bible to carry along with them to pull out scripture when they needed it. They were speaking the words that would become the Bible and they were praying they got it right.

To preach the word and start up new church cells took a ton of courage for sure. As evidenced in scripture, the disciples suffered much for spreading the gospel. They were beaten, imprisoned, spit on, mocked and even martyred. No doubt their families suffered as well by association.

And without doubt, risk was involved. What if no one listened? What if their friends and family turned against them? What if, what if, what if? They experienced the misinterpretation of what they had preached and had to go back and re-teach. They ministered in violent times – where the innocent were tried and convicted and crucified. Many of them had seen that firsthand!

The early church services were held on hillsides, beside sick beds, under open skies and hidden away in secret sanctuaries. They happened on stormy seas, on sandy beaches, and on crowded streets. Wherever the Word of God was offered – be it verbally or through a smile or a healing touch, by laughter and fellowshipping with the Godly men who made it their mission to teach, through soft words of comfort in tough times or shouts of joy in a baptismal stream – wherever, church happened.

The only place it probably didn’t happen back then was in cushioned chairs surrounded by painted walls and controlled temperatures.

Even though we didn’t have “church” as we have come to know it last Sunday, as my pastor said, “We were church – to the friends and neighbors who came and saw God’s people reaching out.”

Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. Luke 14:23

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images7SXM6CQUI recently returned from a 12 day motorcycle trip that encompassed over 4,500 miles and a full range of sights and weather. Since it was in the upper 90’s when we left Yakima, I almost considered leaving my electric jacket home. But – praise the Lord, I changed my mind.

We hit rain as soon as we hit Montana. Our plan was to spend three or four days in that state but, after two solid days of drizzly, chilly rain we changed our plans and headed south. I’ve never seen the Utah National Parks and have always wanted to. My brother-in-law was riding with us and he is a great travel companion as well as a wonderful tour guide. He’s spent a lot of time in Zion, Bryce, Arches and the rest of that area so I knew it would be a great experience.

I also counted on better weather. After all it was the desert. Warm and dry had to happen, right? Wrong. We spent three days touring the parks and those three days racked up record rainfall for that part of the country. Just my luck.
Instead of looking like a cute biker chick, I looked like the Pillsbury doughboy in my multi-layered attire (undershirt, long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, vest, electric jacket, leather jacket and rain gear).

Not that we didn’t see some beautiful sights. There were sun breaks now and then but very little clear sky and plenty of storm clouds moving in and moving out. On our third day we were in Moab, Utah and we woke to an absolute downpour. Water was running in rivers down the street and the sky was very dark with no sign of clearing any time soon.

I was not happy. I had been praying for better weather and I’d even elicited the prayers of friends back home. But God hadn’t answered – at least not in the way I wanted Him to. I was more than a little disappointed in His response In fact, I caught myself being a little ‘gritchy’ with Him, reminding Him I only get one real vacation in a year and I needed it to fill my expectations which were relaxing and staying warm and dry. Was that too much to ask?

We had to rebook the hotel for one more night because it was too dangerous to travel on a bike. By mid-afternoon we were tired of sitting around and my brother-in-law consulted his trusty weather app, noting that a clearing was forecast for a few hours before another storm moved in. We decided to leather up, throw in the rain gear and take our chances. The weather did improve and we actually had sunshine by the time we reached Arches National Park. We pulled into a viewpoint, pulled off our coats because the temperature was rising rapidly, and began to explore.

That rainbow of reds and golds is truly beautiful in the sunlight and we were met with breathtaking sights at every turn. There’s something thrilling about climbing around on those huge sandstone rocks and peering into crevices and arches. I was itching to follow a trail of rock cairns and talked my brother-in-law into accompanying me. He kept reminding me that the farther down into the hole we climbed the more difficult the trip back would be. But I couldn’t stop. Those markers just drew me.

Thank goodness they did because after about 15 minutes of hiking we rounded a corner and were met with a most astounding sight – a waterfall. Now how rare is that – finding a waterfall in the desert? And it wasn’t just a waterfall. Evidently it was an area that collects any kind of moisture that comes along because it was a real life oasis with a tree and some grass and some blooming plants. Surrounded by dry sandstone for as far as you could see, it stood out in brilliant shades of green and just took your breath away.

I had to sit down on a rock and admire the miracle. The thought came to me that a waterfall in the desert doesn’t happen without rainfall in the desert. In fact, I never would have experienced such an amazing sight had I not suffered through three days of wet riding!

And isn’t that just like God to answer your prayer in a completely unexpected, refreshing, soul stirring way with a not so subtle reminder that He always comes through, the storm always passes, the sun always comes out and the reward of staying the course is worth the painful journey.

My desert encounter made me thankful for God’s wisdom and for the way He plans surprises for me around every turn. It touched me so much that I almost didn’t complain a bit when the last two mornings on our trip the temperature registered only 20 degrees as we hit the road. (Even an electric jacket has a hard time counter balancing that!)

I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. Isaiah 41:18:

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Finally, we have our first blanket of snow. Nothing like the huge crippling dumps they’ve been having back East. But enough to cover the bleak brown of frozen earth with a breathtaking mantle of white.

I was out late the night it began snowing, inside and unaware of what Mother Nature was doing. While I shared a bible study lesson with my ladies, she was not so gently sifting the fluffy white stuff down around us. The landscape had changed drastically when we left our study and walking out into it took our breath away – partly because of the great beauty and partly because of the bitter cold wind swirling ice particles around in a high energy ballet.

Driving home was a bit of a challenge but at the same time I had to rejoice in the beauty. When I turned up my long driveway I actually stopped the car for a few minutes. Nothing had traveled the drive since the snow started falling so it was an absolutely perfect diamond studded, blindingly white carpet stretched out before me.

I stopped because I didn’t want to ruin the scene with tire tracks. Eventually I moved on, keeping my eyes on the perfection ahead rather than the ruts left in my wake.

That scene is such a perfect picture of our life in Christ once we’ve accepted His blanket of forgiveness. In the first covering of cleansing we stand in dazzling perfection, every sin covered by the grace of God. But soon something comes along to interrupt that perfection leaving tire tracks. The devil sends someone to drive across our flawless landscape.

We aren’t ruined but we’re changed, not quite as peaceful and perfect.  Before we know it, we’ve become a crisscross of hurts and damage, mistakes, sin and sorrow.  It’s critical that we choose to keep our eyes looking ahead to the vision of dry earth completely transformed by a white gown. Don’t look in the rear view mirror to the blemishes.

The only cure for tire tracks – a new snowfall. With our God there is an endless supply of cleansing – spring, summer, winter and fall. It is suspended there waiting for us to call out. As soon as we do the gates of heaven will burst open and release an abundant supply.

Silent and soft, it’s always in the forecast. The more we need the heavier it falls. It will drift into every scarred and broken crevice, settle in every valley, make the mountaintops more thrilling, fill the empty spaces, hide the ugly places.

It’s God’ forecast of forgiveness.

God’s blizzard of blessing.

God’s amazing Grace.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

 

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Business jetI’ve missed a few weeks of blogging due to travel, both business and pleasure. It has been a whirlwind and I’m like most everyone else, wondering if taking a vacation is really worth it.

Piles on my desk, emails to answer, phone calls to return, laundry to catch up on – you know the routine I’m sure. It’s nice to know you were missed and nice to know your services are appreciated but not so nice to be reminded that just because you stopped coming into the office for three weeks doesn’t mean the work did.

But – what a three weeks it was, the first two spent on our Harley Davidson Ultra Classic traveling with our good friends. I think we saw it all.

I’ve been on the top of mountains, in the depth of valleys, flying along freeways, secondary roads, scenic routes and some not so scenic routes. I saw ancient fossil deposits and Pueblo Indian ruins, high class ski areas and small poverty stricken towns, wildlife and no life.  You name it and I’m pretty sure we saw it.

Our weather was great interrupted now and then by a little rain, a lot of heat and a bit of wind. We traveled in eight different states, stayed in ten different hotels, covered approximately 4,200 miles and laughed a lot.

My return from vacation was quickly followed by a three day business trip to Billings Montana which turned out to be as eventful as my vacation.  My return flights were cancelled shortly after I arrived and my only option was to miss half the conference in order to rebook a flight that would get me home in time for important meetings at the office. But, talk about customer service! My conference host did not want me to miss out so they offered to fly me home on their private jet.

If you’ve never had that experience, which I hadn’t, wow! It’s the only way to fly. No airport crowds, standing in line, taking off your shoes and whatever else might set off the alarm, having your bag searched, waiting to board, squeezing in next to a complete stranger, having to settle for a teenie tiny bag of peanuts and then arriving to stand around and wait for luggage.

I was transported to the airport, dropped off at the private hanger, walked right onto the plane, given a one minute safety briefing by the co-pilot which included pointing out the fully stocked beverage bar and abundant snack supply. I settled into a most comfortable seat, relaxed and experienced the smoothest flight ever.  On arrival at another private hanger I was met and transported to the auto rental counter which was low on cars so I ended up with a brand new, super shiny black Camero to drive myself home.

At the conference I was immersed in the latest information and technology for administering benefits and on the social excursion I experienced a step back in time exploring part of the Lewis and Clark journey. It was a vivid contrast in cultures but a sure reminder that life changes quickly.

The best part of it all – In those miles of travel, through the exposure to the old and the new, in and out of hotels and restaurants, with friends or strangers, seeing glorious panoramas from the top of a mountain or out the window of a jet and miles of changing scenery from the back seat of a motorcycle – in all of those places I was never out of God’s loving care.

One constant, never changing, solid, unshakable presence in the ever changing landscape of life –  my precious Savior. How blessed I am.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

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MP900049751[1]Ahhh – sunshine.  A commodity my home town is famous for but which has been in short supply these past few weeks. Instead, we’ve had rain.  Lots of rain.

But this morning I’m looking out the large window of my office at clear blue skies and sun so bright it is glistening off the still wet grass and kissing the trees until their leaves wiggle in delight.

I am looking forward to our Saturday ride – finally. So far this year it’s been cold, windy, overcast or rainy. Not every ride has been completely miserable but close. So I have a habit of praying at the start of each ride, “God, if I have to be cold or wet at least let me see something amazing along the way.” And He is always faithful to answer.

A couple of weeks ago as I was hunkered down shivering I spotted two large bald eagles, a male and a female, perched high in a tall pine tree. They just sat there like they owned the world, guarding their nest and watching us with haughty eyes as if laughing at our silly venture.

Last week as I was dodging raindrops I spotted a beautiful buck deer still in the velvet but already showing about 4 points on each side standing knee deep in a field. As if the sight of him wasn’t a breathtaking enough, next to him was a sleek and graceful doe and her young fawn. The whole family just standing there watching us roar by, reminding us there’s more to life than racing down a highway.

This weekend the weather is forecast to be in the mid eighties with clear skies and sunshine. I’m finally looking forward to the ride because I know the hills will dressed in green and flowers will be popping their colorful heads to bask in the beautiful day.

Pondering on this fact I realized the reason the scenery will be so beautiful on Saturday is because of the amount of rain we’ve had this spring.

And that led me to understand just how God answered my prayer these past weeks. I thought the amazing things he wanted me to see were the eagles and the family of deer grazing.  Actually, He was letting me see how He never focuses on a single moment in answering my prayers. He looks at the entire picture of my life and provides in such a way that I experience Him over and over and over.

I heard a comment in a training session I attended a few days ago and it has stayed with me. The comment came from a farmer’s prospective.  “Drip irrigation beats a flash flood any day.”

God is definitely a drip irrigation kind of guy, providing a steady stream of what we need rather than giving us everything in a flash flood. The rain drops I dodged two weeks ago will result in miles and miles of enjoyment in days to come.

I am reminded not to take everything I see at face value. When God answers prayer He doesn’t do it to gratify a momentary need. He does in such a way as to provide a better path moving forward and a greater impact on my future.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater  Isaiah 55:10

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MP900313893[1]April in the Pacific Northwest – a season where every day is a surprise package to be opened while doing early spring gardening in a short sleeved shirt or huddled in flannels around the fire.

Since there’s no snow on the ground, April is also Harley riding weather for my bike addicted husband. And, because six days of my week are crazy busy coming and going while trying to catch quick conversations and hugs with him along the way, Saturday is togetherness day. And you can’t get much more together than paired up on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

We’ve been out a few times this year and come home exhilarated though chilled to the bone. But this past Saturday topped them all.

The weather forecast was not promising, but who trusts the weatherman? Standing in the driveway and doing a 360 degree scan was a bit disheartening. Dark clouds pretty much defined the landscape in every direction.  But dark clouds don’t always produce rain, right? Things can change, right?

Change they did. Within the first fifteen miles of the ride I accepted that the several layers of clothing I had on were not going to be enough to keep me warm.

The wind picked up a few miles after that, building from strong gusts to gale force.

The rain hit shortly after that. Not a deluge thank goodness, just the miserable drizzle that collects on your collar and drips down your neck. Oh the glory.

And the crowning jewel of the day – a stinging hail storm. Is there anything worse than hail hitting you in the face as you fly down the road with no choice but to keep going until you can outrun it?

To add insult to injury, we couldn’t take our normal route home, meandering along the river where you might at least see an eagle, a herd of bighorn sheep or a graceful doe sheltering under an evergreen. That route was closed for an annual marathon. Instead, we were forced to take the freeway.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how much I hate traveling the freeway on a motorcycle. I don’t like the speed, the traffic, or the fact that you can’t see much because you are going too fast and paying too much attention to that traffic. I will always choose a slower, winding route if I have a choicem which I didn’t.

As rides go, this one had everything – everything I dislike anyway. In fact, on a scale of one to ten, this one was too far below the line to register. Somewhere in the last half hour of that ride I promised myself a new Saturday entertainment activity. I said to myself I would never climb aboard again unless the stars came together in perfect alignment and guaranteed 80 degree weather and a cloudless sky. I decided then and there to sell my backseat to some other woman with the fortitude and tolerance to take my place.

But once home and ensconced in front of the pellet stove, a hot cup of coffee in my hand  and blood finally flowing again, I started to remember things like:

  • Landscapes seen from the back of a bike where the colors are more vivid because of the overdose of fresh air coursing through my veins
  • Surprises like spotting a wide eyed fawn peeking out from behind a tall stand of grass, an osprey dive bombing a trout and flapping its wings in victory, sunbreaks through clouds, swaying grain fields, …
  • The euphoric feel of sunshine on bare arms that are wrapped around my one constant in life – a man who loves more than anything just having me there with him
  • Laughter and experiences shared with traveling buddies that are retold and elaborated upon year after year
  • New roads we’ve never traveled and old roads that hold familiarity like long time friends  

We’ve had so many great experiences from the back of that bike that far outshine the few wet, cold, miserable rides which I’m sure are thrown in to help me appreciate the others.

Here’s to another season of road miles and smiles, sunshine and shadows, good friends, long days and lots and lots of memory making.

“On a good day, enjoy yourself; On a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days so that we won’t take anything for granted.” Ecclesiastes 7:14 (msg)

 

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