This morning, I witnessed a battle scene.
The scene was so striking, it grabbed my attention and I could not take my eyes from it. A dramatically painted picture etched itself into my mind and didn’t leave my thoughts all day.
Summer time delivers many bright, sunny days of hot weather here at Mama’s Empty Nest. In the last couple of days, some blessed rain blew in, shoving the high humidity out, resulting in more delightful temperatures and a sweet, refreshing breeze.
On my trek to work today, I couldn’t stop staring at the sky. As I buzzed down the highway, I noticed the fast-moving hedge of dark rain clouds streaking across the vista. I continued watching them because they were speeding along like a freight train.
And that’s when I noticed that in one direction bits of fluffiness in the form of cottony clouds dotted blue sky and sunlight streamed through that part of the atmosphere. But the sinister looking freight train was rolling through rapidly from the other direction! The dark clouds, in their faster than a speeding bullet mode, collided and clashed with the bright side of the sky swiftly overtaking it – simply annihilating it in the battle.
Those ominous clouds actually devoured the fleecy ones. Darkness swallowed up the sunlight right before my eyes. That scene unfolding in front of me reminded me about the stark reality of the world we live in. Evil – the dark side, if you want to quote Star Wars – spreads its foul fingers wherever it goes trying to consume and ultimately destroy goodness or light. And that happens each and every day here in our world, not just in movieland.
As a believer in Christ, I tend to view life in spiritual ways, especially when God paints such a vivid picture in my surroundings as He did this morning. Witnessing those rain clouds slamming into sunshine reminded me that we need to be on guard, ever watchful for evil which can so easily overtake us. But even more than that, we must be vigilant in prayer.
1 Peter 5:7-9 ~ “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
Just yesterday, I was gifted with an opportunity to enjoy a short chat with a lovely fellow Christian who I haven’t seen for some time. She’s enduring a difficult trial right now, yet amid her own heavy load, she inquired about my family and shared that she had been praying for us. Her face lit up with a smile and praise when I revealed how her prayers had been answered.
Conviction washed over me as I realized that I have not been as diligent in prayer for this dear one as she has been for me. She disclosed to me that during this storm she feels such a strong sense of peace which she’s certain is from God. Then she stated something that didn’t surprise me at all. Several well-meaning people in her circle of friends told her she wasn’t being positive enough because she has accepted the difficulty laid before her and is meeting it with complete faith and trust in the God who has saved her.
People don’t get that, she told me. They think she’s not “thinking positive” when she tells them she will meet whatever outcome God has in store for her and they don’t understand or like what she says. As a realist myself, I totally get it.
There are certain events we encounter in life that just happen. You can try to use the ‘power of positive thinking’ until the cows come home, but it might not change your circumstances. That doesn’t mean you must stop asking God for intervention, or healing, or a miracle, or whatever may help the situation. But you also should beseech Him for the strength to endure, the ability to completely trust His will for you, and the peace that passes all understanding.
The power of positive thinking alone can’t move the rain clouds away or stop them from coming just as it can’t protect me from evil touching my life. The power of prayer to the God who is in control of the universe is a different story. And the power of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, is the real source of the peace and strength needed to endure life as it comes.
This morning as I began my 9th page in Chapter 8 in my life’s book entitled Opportunity, I’m certain my heavenly Father demonstrated these thoughts for me as I watched that war of clouds in the morning sky.
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The scorching summer sun, suspended low in the western sky, slowly disappeared out of sight.
Darkness enveloped the house. Twinkling fireflies flickering here and there were the only light visible.
The steady creaking of the porch swing swaying slowly back and forth seemed to be the only sound, except perhaps for the buzzing of insects.
Using as little effort as possible to move in the sweltering heat, they fanned themselves and tried to catch a wisp of any breeze that happened to float by. “Ahh,” she sighed wistfully as she sipped a glass of already tepid water. “I think it’s a little cooler now.”
When they couldn’t bear swatting at pesky insects any longer and darkness had completed descended upon them, they moved inside the unlit, still, and noiseless house. He found the box of wooden matches and carefully lit the kerosene lamp in the kitchen. An aura of light radiated in a very small circle around the lamp.
They positioned themselves, he on the easy chair and ottoman, she on the couch. In the dim light, they could barely see one another. They sat in silence, each one thinking, “What should we do now?”
Minutes passed slowly and he finally stood up, stretched and said, “I think I’ll just go on up to bed. Maybe get up early in the morning when it’s light and try to get a few things done.”
She agreed there was nothing else they could accomplish and followed him up the stairs. The bedroom windows were flung as far open as possible in hopes of allowing wafts of air, now not as heavy-laden with humidity as before the violent storm, to circulate through the screens.
She tossed and turned through the night, trying to find a cooler, comfortable spot on her pillow. What would tomorrow bring? What would they do if morning signaled another searing day of this heat wave? As she tried to nod off to sleep, she whispered her prayers and thanked the Lord for yet another day and that she lived in this century.
That scene may sound like a vignette from yesteryear, back in my grandmother’s day before electricity and modern appliances, but in reality, it described our house last Friday night. A violent thunderstorm blew into our area, bringing gusty winds, rumbling waves of thunder, and wickedly long, jagged bolts of lightning along with torrents of rain that resulted in flash flooding. Trees downed across power lines, transformers on fire, and a host of other problems across our area were the end result. We lost power around 5 p.m.
Let me just state right here, for all to read, I am a wimp. I am way too dependent on my household appliances and electricity at the flip of a switch. When the weather turns monstrously hot and humid, I rely on air conditioning, big box fans, and my refrigerator’s ice maker to keep me sane.
Neither hubby nor I slept well without power, not just because we had no air conditioning, but because we kept waking up asking each other, “Is the power back on?”
And it wasn’t. The next morning, still no electric. No electric meant no cooking (and no pickle making either, by the way). Using the side burner of our propane gas grill on our back yard deck, we heated a kettle for a cup of tea. Then we decided to acclimate ourselves to the heat by working in the garden.
I know. What an idea! As the temperatures soared and the humidity closed in on us, we sweat buckets while we hoed and pulled weeds and did some general clean-up in the garden and yard.
I didn’t last as long as hubby did. He’s obviously made of more sturdy stuff than his wife. Why I’m so wimpy is a puzzle because my family background consists of people who most definitely were made of strong stock. All I know is that I probably wouldn’t have survived being a pioneer woman.
So after my eyes burned from sweat rolling into them and my lips were the saltiest I have ever tasted, all I wanted was shade and a huge glass of water, with a scanty smidge of ice cubes still left in the freezer, which I grabbed out as quickly as I could so I could slam shut the door and keep the coldness inside the appliance.
Later that afternoon still with no electricity, we listened to generators hum through the neighborhood and chain saws cutting up fallen trees. We decided the outage was lasting so long, we needed to act fast to prevent losing our refrigerator and freezer food. Hubby drove off in search of any nearby store that still had bags of ice. When he returned, we loaded up our coolers to commence packing them with food.
And that’s when we heard it. The distinct hum of the refrigerator sounded after almost 24 hours of silence. The air conditioning unit sprang to life once more. Our electric clocks flashed at us screaming, “Set me!” All was right with the world once more….except for this…I made a resolution, and it’s not even January, to start being more grateful and less helpless.
It’s Chapter 7, Page 25, another day in my life named Opportunity, and as I’m refreshed by central air and ice cubes, I’m so very thankful for electricity and modern appliances.
But I’m even more thankful for all of those power company workers who toil many, long hours in blistering heat and freezing cold to restore our power just so I can flip a switch. Thank you God, for those who make my life easier because those who do so surely are not wimps.
It’s quiet at our house today. That’s nothing new. Country living contributes to the lack of noise.
The stillness of the winter season makes it even quieter. Snow blankets the ground and continues to fall each day. We’re not really getting socked in with the snow storms other areas of the country have received, just a steady diet of the white stuff.
Our calico kitty hates the snow – won’t set one pretty paw in it. So she passes her days nestled up in a furry ball, soundly sleeping in a few of her favorite spots around the house. Even she seems subdued though, content to just lounge and rest and occasionally utter her pathetic-sounding tiny “meee-ahh” when she desperately wants a kitty treat.
Of course, the empty-nesthood that is our home is noiseless except when hubby turns on the television to catch a favorite show or watch his James Bond movies on DVD. So it seems incongruous that in the seeming tranquility of our home, I feel as though we are entrenched in the midst of a ferocious storm.
It’s not a physical storm that threatens us; it is a storm of disconcerting circumstances. But that doesn’t make it any less painful or frightening or discouraging. The suddenness of storms and the intensity of thunder, lightning, or bursts of gale-like winds often unnerve us.
Our middle daughter has always been terrified of storms. When she was very young we lived in “Tornado Alley” in the Midwest and a sudden onset of thunder would send her scurrying for the safety of Mom or Dad’s arms. If a storm brewed up during the night, her little body shot out of her bed and before we could even react, she cringed between us in our bed, looking for a sanctuary from the storm.
That’s how I feel today, like I’m in a safe place, a sanctuary from the storm that hovers around us. Somehow, we remain calm in the midst of this tempest. It feels like what I imagine it would be like to float along in the eye of a hurricane. All around are the threatening explosions of wind and rain, but in the eye is serenity.
The eye in our hurricane is the trust we have in our God, who is so much more powerful than any storm’s outburst could ever be. We stand on our faith, centered on God because we know as believers in Christ Jesus, we are the apple of God’s eye. And in His eye is peace.
I know this is what He wants me to learn today in Chapter One, Page 29, in my book called Opportunity. I know this with certainty because He has confirmed that through the written word and in song. All day, the music box part of my mind has been playing “I’ll Praise You in This Storm,” a song by Casting Crowns.
And then I opened up the inbox of my email account to find an encouraging devotional sent to me by a far-away but very dear friend. The title of the uplifting story was….you guessed it… “Praise Him in the Storm.”
Are you troubled today? Is there a storm brewing around you too? Listen to the words of this song. No matter our circumstances, God is always there to help us through. May you find you can praise God also in the middle of your tempest.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Work while it is called today, for you know not how much you will be hindered tomorrow. One today is worth two tomorrows; never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”
Unless you live in a wind tunnel like I do.
Our home sits in a little valley out here in the country and is situated mid-point on a gradual rise. Our driveway angles up the hill from our house and the ground slopes downward behind it. The wind, especially in the winter time, races up the valley and slams into our house – literally, we can hear it hit us and swirl around the house.
If we have a storm (rain or snow) accompanied by blustery wind, we can expect some object to go flying through our yard. Sometimes the shingles sail off our roof, other times the patio furniture takes a nose dive off our deck.
I’ve watched a summer gust of wind lift our outdoor umbrella up from the patio table and completely out of the stand in which it was fastened, then toss it two or three times off the deck and through the back yard. I’m not talking about tornado fierce winds either.
Since we built our home in a farmer’s field, there were no trees on our property. We planted some here and there, but they aren’t very large yet because they were saplings when we planted them. Some of the trees are maple and they do turn a lovely color in autumn, as you can see from my photo.
Motoring up the driveway on my way to work earlier this week, I noticed that the largest tree in our front yard had dropped all of its leaves. A substantial pile of orange-red discarded remnants lay under that tree and around the smaller trees located in our yard as well. I thought, “Wow, this year I’m going to have to get out there and rake some leaves.”
Raking leaves is a task I haven’t done for a long time, and in a way I almost looked forward to it. But of course I did not heed good old Ben Franklin’s advice that afternoon, even though his words are very sound wisdom.
Since I was weary when I came home from work, I instead delayed the chore for another day. After all, I had to write my blog! So even though the weather was nice and warm, I procrastinated. I know, Ben would not be pleased.
The next day a weird and wacky weather system blew through our area. I stopped at a store on my way home from work and when I departed, it was pouring rain. No, it was a deluge of rain! The wind was gusting wildly and ferociously, so much that sheets of rain were blowing sideways.
Running to my car in the parking lot, I got drenched, but by the time I arrived safely at home, the storm had blown out of here. I was wet, shivering from being cold, hungry and tired, so it was definitely one of those nights to just stay inside, curled up all toasty and warm under a blanket on the sofa.
A sunny but crisp, chilly day ensued, and as I again drove up my driveway, I stopped my car and laughed out loud. Glancing over to the tree where that pile of leaves, begging to be raked and relegated to the compost pile, had once gathered, I noticed that there were no leaves left!
I looked at the smaller tree; I checked the trees on the other side of the driveway. Same thing, there was not one leaf anywhere in my entire two acre yard. Every single leaf had blown completely away! No raking for me – one scenario where procrastinating actually worked in my favor. Take that, Ben.
And then it dawned on me, the wind served as a reminder. Even though the task of raking was not a daunting one, all the work had been accomplished for me by the wind. Isn’t that just like Jesus and His grace? We could work and toil and slave to atone for all the wrong-doings we commit in our lives. We could try to earn our way into Heaven, but it’s not possible.
God forgives our sinful shortcomings when we submit our lives to Jesus Christ. He enters our souls and with a fresh wind, He wipes us clean, just as my yard had been swept clean of all those littering leaves. Jesus already did the hardest task imaginable, He bore upon the cross each and every sin we could commit and paid the price for me, for you.
He endured and accomplished all the work, so you and I may enjoy His gift of grace (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense). All we need to do to accept the gift is repent, turn away from sin, and allow Christ to transform our lives.
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” ~ Acts 3:19
Have you done that? Have you asked Jesus to blow away the rubbish in your life? A life centered on loving and serving Him – now that blows me away!