Sunday, August 31, 2008

Riders on the Storm

Journey: Personal - As I write this New Orleans is getting the first wave of the outer bands of Gustav. Earlier, at 6:15pm, we got the first rumblings of thunder and the wind started picking up.


There's been a lot of good news since my last post and this is probably my last before I loose power. The storm is weakening some and it sped up. All good for us. It'll still hit as a Cat 3 but better than the 4 or 5 some were predicting. So it's going to be intense, but will turn out ok.

Last night by the time I went to bed I was very uncertain about my decision to stay and ride it out. No, that's not exactly right. I was certain about the decision but felt uneasy about the situation. Of course there is an overall level of anxiety in the air all through the city. The hurricane is all everyone is talking about.

So this morning, since there wasn't a mandatory evacuation order, we had worship at church. I got up and did my usual thing. Of course our numbers were much lower than usual. But we worshiped. We worshiped good. We sang, laughed, prayed and focused on God instead of Gustav. It wasn't long before I wasn't even thinking about Gustav. Chris preached on worry. And it was some mighty fine preaching, too.

I was reminded how much fear I have in my life. Some of the fear is larger than others. Some are relatively new, some are as old as I can remember. Arguably most are unfounded in reality and maybe even completely irrational. I've made some progress on some. Some lie dormant for years, all but completely forgotten, only to rear up suddenly when I least expect it.

Categorically, many of the fears are insecurities. In speaking with some friends, they tell me that I give off exactly the opposite impression. That started in college. It was a time for me to "reinvent" myself. The me that I wanted people to see was confident, wise and secure in myself. The me that was on the inside was scared, doubtful and afraid of failure.

But God is working on me. He's trying to teach me not to be afraid. He's trying to teach me to trust. I'm getting there. This morning was a strong lesson. When there is something I am afraid of, the way I give it up to Him is to focus completely on Him. Blindingly all on Him. Sometimes that means prayer or worship. Other times it means focusing on Him through service to others. I'm not good at the serving others part. At least outside of the church. And what keeps me from being better at it is my insecurities and self centeredness.

Lord, break through my stubborn, sinful nature. Do what you need to to teach me. Put me up against a hurricane or worse yet, my own fears and insecurities.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and He will direct your paths.
- Proverbs 3:5-6

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Tom Petty, Get Outta My Head

Journey: Personal - At the point we're about 40 hours from the meat of Gustav. All of the models say it's headed straight for us. In chatting with friends in Florida, they're feeling the outer bands of it. It has gotten bigger.


Looking at this radar shows how much difference a little distance east or west can make. It's just now coming onshore of Cuba and already the models are starting to change.

What is that? You say you hear something? Sounds like "whistling in the dark"? Well, may be but that's going to turn into whistling in the wind. Yeah, Yeah, I may change my mind tomorrow. But that's tomorrow. But I do think if I left I'd worry more.

But right now I can't get that song from Tom Petty out of my head, "the waiting is the hardest part."

Thank God we have worship in the morning.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Watching & Waiting

Journey: Personal - It doesn't seem like it's been three years since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But now we sit in a similar state: watching and waiting to see what Gustav is going to do. It still won't hit land until probably four or five days from now but everyone is watching so closely.

I don't remember waiting in nervous anticipation of hurricanes growing up in Florida. The good Lord knows we got 'em. I also don't remember ever evacuating for one. Crawfordville was close enough to the coast to feel the mighty power of the storm but far enough that storm surge was not an issue. The same is here. We lost one really old roof several years ago, which was actually a blessing. It needed replacing and the insurance deductible was cheeper than a new roof. It think that was Lily.

Gretchen and I talked about our plans this morning. Without too much detail we agree that if it's really bad that she'll go inland. But unless there is a mandatory evacuation notice, I think I'm going to stay here. I guess it's the "guy" in me that wants to stay on the homestead. Like there's something I can do.

But I continue to pray. I pray that somehow that Gustav will do as little damage as possible. I pray that we will be spared the worst of it without somehow wishing it on someone else. But I especially pray for ears to hear what He wants me to do in this situation as well and daily. I think hearing has always been my weakness. Or maybe it's just the interpretation of what I'm hearing.

Anyway, I've changed the anthem in worship for Sunday. I'm going to sing Casting Crowns' "Praise You in This Storm". God's peace and protection be with us all.

I was sure by now
That You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen",
and it's still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
Every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry
You raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can't find You

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth

Lord, You are the God of the Storm. Amen, and Amen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

He does exist...

Journey: Spiritual - Pastor Daniel Hixon has a blog called Gloria Deo: Wesleyan-glican ramblings. In this blog he discusses various timely issues on the state of the church as a whole as well and the United Methodist Church. I have thoroughly enjoyed his posts.

Daniel has two receint posts dealing with spirits, Satan and exorcism within the United Methodist Church that is fascinating and important. It speaks to many concerns I've had for several years. I recommend reading them before continuing.

As time goes by C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters become less humorous and more frightening. These days it hits a little too close to home. I am a life long Methodist and have been concerned about our middle-of-the-road stance on too many issues. Once speaking with my formerly Roman Catholic wife, we were talking about her sisters fascination with "haunted" B&Bs. I told her that I would have nothing to do with it. She said that maybe because her sister was Catholic that she believe more in the "supernatural." I told her it was BECAUSE I believe in the spirit world that I don't want to have anything to do with them. Either placed like those are hoaxes or they're not. If they're not and there are spirits there, they are not benevolent. They are of Satan and are evil. Satan downplays things to make them seem harmless and curiosities. They are a trap. He does this in many ways in our culture.

Going back to my wife's comment, it told me the perception of Methodists. That we don't believe in the spirit world. And on a whole we don't. We're too busy trying to get the middle-of-the-roaders in our doors. And that means once they're in here, we don't want to do anything to upset them or to scare them off.

But I do believe in spirits. I believe there is a huge battle being fought all around us. And when we pray, we send angels into this battle on our and God's behalf. When we are tempted to sin, there are spirit forces at work. When we rebuke sin, it is a spiritual victory for us.

The devil is real. He/she is attractive, otherwise there would be no temptation. But Satan is cleaver in the most subtile of ways. And that's where he trips me up. It's with the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or the McDonald's french fries. The BMW or new golf clubs doesn't do it for me (please disregard my previous posts about the iPhone - ooops).

Keep your eyes, physical and spiritual, open and alert.

Thanks Daniel, for reminding us again, it's not about us.