Into the Storm

Gray clouds

There’s a new tornado disaster movie in theaters called “Into the Storm.”  I’m not sure I want to go see it.  I’m still recovering from my own brief, but traumatizing tornado “encounter.”  No pun intended, but here’s how it went down…

I was out shopping on a Sunday afternoon last month when, for the second time this summer, my cell phone vibrated with this ominous message:

“Emergency Alert. Tornado Warning in this area til 2:00 PM MDT. Take shelter now.”

Yikes.

I hastily abandoned my cart with its contents and hurried to a neighboring store to collect Laurel and her two friends.  Outside in the parking lot, we scanned the horizon in search of a funnel cloud.  Seeing nothing but dark clouds and gray skies, I decided to make a run for home, reasoning that our full basement was a safer location than a one-story strip mall.

I was fairly confident I could make it there in time.

Within moments I was fairly confident I was wrong.

Warning sirens began blaring as our van rounded the back of the building.  The girls continued to monitor the clouds through the back seat windows.  The wind picked up.  Rain, mixed with hail, started to pelt.  My pounding heart echoed the staccato sound.

Soon we were engulfed in Gray.  For all I knew we were driving straight into the tornado.  And believe me when I say I’m no storm chaser.

At this point I instructed Laurel to call home to see if we could get some idea of where the funnel cloud had been spotted and which direction it was moving.  Emily answered and informed us that “it” was “by the church.”  “We” were several blocks directly east of the church.

Gulp.

This was beginning to get real.

My heart now kept time with the windshield wipers set to their highest speed.  I pressed harder on the accelerator, my leg trembling involuntarily as we sped north towards the house.  At times visibility became so poor I feared I would drive right off the road.  Seeing no other cars around, it seemed that everyone had gotten the memo about the tornado’s location but me.

I began to pray.  Nonstop.  Out loud.  I’m not sure if my prayers were a welcome comfort to my three wide-eyed passengers, or an unsettling sign that a meeting with our Maker was imminent.  (I’m guessing the latter.)

Seconds felt like minutes felt like hours.  I just kept driving (read: speeding).  And praying (read: crying out to my Maker).

We finally skidded around the corner onto the dirt road that leads up the steep hill to our home.  I scaled that hill in record time, fishtailing as I floored it down (read: up) the homestretch.  We lurched to a stop in our driveway, flung open the car doors and bolted through the heavy rain into the house.  We were breathless and drenched.

But we were safe.

We later learned that a tornado did touch down east of town not long after our crazy storm chase.  Emily had witnessed some scary looking cloud rotation in the church parking lot.  It was all part of the same strong storm system that cut diagonally across the city that afternoon.  But as far as we know there never was an actual funnel cloud bearing down on us, despite how frighteningly real it felt at the time.

After the fact, a friend jokingly remarked that those moments of sheer terror were a great time to make sure one was “good with God.”

“Oh, I’m good,” I replied without hesitation.

You see, that’s the thing.  A tornado could have swept us up and into eternity that afternoon.  All of our days are numbered.  As Christian author and teacher Beth Moore once said:

“You gotta get home somehow.” *

Be it via tornado or illness or accident.  One day we will depart from this place we now call home.

It is vital to know that we are “good with God.”

I am.  I don’t base my confidence upon my own performance, but upon the perfection of the One I call Savior.  I love how Tullian Tchividjian put this in his excellent book One Way Love:

In other words, the older I get, the more smitten I become by the fact that God’s love for me, His approval and commitment to me, does not ride on my transformation but on Jesus’ substitution.  Jesus is infallibly devoted to us in spite of our inconsistent devotion to him.  The Gospel is not a command to hang on to Jesus.  It’s a promise that no matter how weak your faith and how unsuccessful your efforts may be, God is always holding on to you.”

Amen.

If you have placed your trust in Jesus, then as far as He’s concerned, you’re good with Him.  Not because you are good or even just good enough.  But because HE was!

Storms will come.  They are unpredictable, unavoidable, and inevitable.

In those moments of fear and uncertainty, you can be completely sure of this:

He is with you.

He will hold on to you.

He will deliver you safely Home.

“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” –Jesus (John 6:39-40, NIV)

*From her teaching on Daniel 3.

 

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Marked

Beau marked his “Half Birthday” last week.  And, as if a switch had been flipped in his little doggy brain, he immediately began “marking” his territory.

INSIDE the house.

I was reminded of all the reasons we wanted a female dog.

We in turn celebrated the milestone with a trip to the vet for a few “alterations.”  (Sorry, Beau.)  We’re hoping this will “fix” his little leg-lifting problem.

But I have to share Laurel’s response when we discovered her dog’s newfound compulsion to mark his territory.

“Beau!” she scolded him, “It’s already yours!”

Then she turned to me.  “This could be an illustration.”

“Of what?” I questioned.

She went on to describe how as Christians we often work so hard, trying to gain something that has already been given to us.

She’s right, you know.

When we were adopted into the family of God, what was His became ours.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. (Ephesians 1:3, NLT)

There is no longer any reason to feel insecure.  He has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ.  We have a place in His heart forever, and a full inheritance as sons.  We are marked with His seal of approval.

So, RELAX.

Stop strutting your stuff.  Cease striving to prove your worth.  Quit worrying about “making a mark” for God.  (That last one was for me.)

Just live in the joy and freedom of your Father’s house.

It’s already yours.

Beau at six months

(Now let’s pray Beau also figures this out.  And soon.)

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When God Smiles

Have you ever had one of those days where it feels like God is smiling down on you?  I had one today!

He coaxed me out of bed early this morning to share the sunrise with Him, as He brushed a white snow canvas with shades of orange and pink.

I felt the warmth of His smile as the sunshine returned after a late spring snowstorm,  and could just imagine Him chuckling at the pine trees so weighted down with snow they looked more at home on the front of a Christmas card than on a calendar flipped to the month of May.

And I thought I even heard Him laugh out loud when I reached the bottom of (the hill we call) our driveway and triggered a sudden avalanche down my windshield from the foot of snow on the roof of our van.

It’s good to feel His smile.

I came across this very cool verse as I was reading through the book of Proverbs last month:  “When the king smiles, there is life; his favor refreshes like a spring rain.” (Proverbs 16:15)  (Or, in our case, a spring snow.)  Let the words soak into your heart like the melting snow refreshes and revives the dry plains.

To be in Christ means that The King’s favor is upon you.  It means that when He looks at you, He smiles.

Jesus once stood in a crowded Jewish synagogue and announced that “…the time of the Lord’s favor has come…”  (Isaiah 61:2 and Luke 4:19).  This was a game changer.  No longer was God’s favor tied to man’s strict observance of the Law.  It was now a gift realized through one’s vital union with the Messiah.

But old habits die hard.  So Paul challenges our natural human bent toward performance in the book of Galatians:  “You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years.” (Galatians 4:10)  Or by…?  Fill in the blank.  What ways are you still trying to earn God’s favor?

Whatever it is, IT is no longer necessary.  Jesus’ perfection earned our admission into the throne room of the King.  We don’t come fearfully, as Esther did when she risked her life daring to approach the king unsummoned.  We enter by His own personal invitation, and can be confident that when our eyes meet His, we will find them wrinkled in a warm and welcoming smile.

If you belong to Christ, every day is a day you can know God is smiling down on you.  For the time of the Lord’s favor has come.  You can’t earn it.  Just believe it.  And feel the warmth radiating from His beaming face.

When God looks at you, He smiles.

“May His face smile with favor upon (you!)” (Psalm 67:1b)

(All Scripture references are from The New Living Translation of the Bible.)

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